This week’s Ketchup includes sequel news for Piranha 3D and Hayao Miyazaki’s Porco Rosso, the announcement of another Marvel Studios superhero movie and new roles for Jessica Alba, Sandra Bullock, Steve Carell, John Cusack, Tom Hanks, Angelina Jolie, Queen Latifah, Dolly Parton and Jeremy Renner.
It’s a fairly standard age-old practice for studios to either limit or completely skip press screenings for movies that the executives expect will get hammered by the critics. That happened with the Weinstein Company and Piranha 3D and then a funny (and very rare) thing happened: the critics generally loved it, giving Piranha 3D a 75% on the Tomatometer. The sexy horror movie about swarming fishies devouring beach partying youngsters opened to $10 million, which doesn’t seem like much, but Piranha 3D was also not particularly expensive to make, either (budget: $24 million). That means The Weinstein Company’s Dimension Films, producer Mark Canton and director Alexandre Aja are already talking about plans for a fourth movie in the Piranha franchise (my suggested title: Piranha 3DD… because this movie had boobies). The really ironic part is that producer Mark Canton is citing critics as part of the reason for the sequel talk: “And it’s fantastic that so many critics are really getting the movie and recommending it. We can’t wait to get to work on the sequel.” Yes, the critics that they (mostly) couldn’t bother to screen the movie for are now the reason they are making a sequel; most of the critics who did get screenings saw the movie almost right before it opened in theaters (making it too late to publish reviews the day of release). As for what Piranha 3D 2 (or whatever it’s called) might be about, there’s no official word yet, but a few weeks ago, director Alexandre Aja said, “We had many ideas — like the full moon party in Thailand, a huge event with like 200,000 young people from around the world taking mushrooms and partying on the beach.” It is possible that Aja’s involvement on the sequel may just be as a producer, as he is not yet officially signed to return to direct the sequel.
Jeremy Renner finally emerged from years of obscurity last year with Oscar-nominated role in The Hurt Locker, and one of the results was his casting as the archer superhero Hawkeye in Marvel’s The Avengers. Shortly after news broke that Paramount was looking for a younger star to join Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible IV, Renner was confirmed as landing the role. An important factor in finding the right actor was that Paramount wanted someone who could take over the Mission: Impossible franchise if Tom Cruise ever leaves. Tom Cruise is expected to star in a potential Mission: Impossible V, but Paramount also wants to add some new blood, you know, “just in case.” Other actors that were considered include Chris Pine (Star Trek) and Tom Hardy (Inception), but their schedules were already booked during the time that Paramount plans on filming Mission: Impossible IV. But Renner’s work on The Avengers does not conflict. Renner’s Hurt Locker costar Anthony Mackie was also considered. The slight irony about Renner landing the part of the “young” spy is that at 39, Renner is actually only 9 years younger than the 48-year-old Tom Cruise. The M:I IV script was written by the Knight and Day team of Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec. Brad Bird (Ratatouille, The Incredibles) will be making his live-action debut with Mission: Impossible IV, which film on location around the world in the USA, Vancouver, Prague and Dubai. The next step in the casting process will now be to find an actress to play a young female operative to costar with Cruise and Renner.
Although Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock have both built their strong careers on similar types of movies, the two have never costarred together. The stars however are now both attached to star in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, a project that Warner Bros and Paramount Pictures are partnering on in, which Hanks and Bullock will play the parents of a nine year old boy who is the movie’s actual lead character. Based upon a novel by Safran Foer (Everything is Illuminated), Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close tells the story of a child prodigy (an inventor, actor, musician, jeweler, pacifist and pen pal with Stephen Hawking) who goes on a quest through New York City’s five burroughs seeking to find the lock that matches the key left behind by his father, who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11. That last part is not really a spoiler since it sort of drives the entire story, and is likely to be revealed in the trailer. The script was adapted by Academy Award winner Eric Roth (Forrest Gump), who also was nominated for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and for cowriting Munich and The Insider. Filming of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is expected to start in mid-January on location in New York City. As Oscar-friendly as the film already is with the involvement of Hanks, Bullock and Roth, director Stephen Daldry’s streak is just as impressive. Daldry has directed only three films, and all three (Billy Elliot, The Hours and The Reader) earned him Academy Award nominations for Best Director. Basically, movies don’t get much more Oscar Bait-ish than Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. And that’s without even mentioning the connection to 9/11.
Acclaimed anime director Hayao Miyazaki (The Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away) is now 69, and is moving towards his Studio Ghibli producing more movies directed by younger members of his staff. However, the master has not totally given up on directing more movies himself, and what may be his next project should be exciting for fans of one of his earliest films, Porco Rosso. That 1992 film detailed the flying exploits of an Italian pilot during World War I, who had also been magically transformed into a walking, talking pig (hence the title). So yes, Porco Rosso was about a pig shooting down biplanes. This marks the first sequel Miyazaki would tackle, and it’s titled Porco Rosso: The Last Sortie. Miyazaki revealed include that the hero would be a boy (instead of a girl like most of his films), and that it would be set during the Spanish Civil War, 20 years after World War I. And now, here’s the bad news. Miyazaki’s ability to make Porco Rosso: The Last Sortie will depend upon the success of Studio Ghibli’s next two movies (neither of which he directed.) I think he means The Borrower Arrietty (which was released last month in Japan) and the upcoming The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter (unless he’s not counting The Borrower Arietty and there’s another upcoming film I don’t know about). If the films Miyazaki is talking about perform poorly, Studio Ghibli may be shut down and become just a skeleton crew company to control the rights to existing properties. So, I guess that’s the cue for Hayao Miyazaki to go out and support the U.S. release of Tales of Earthsea (currently in release here) and those next two movies, so that we can get to see a pig flying around shooting fascists out of the sky over Spain.
Late breaking news came in this afternoon just as I was finishing up the Weekly Ketchup from a very 2010 source: John Cusack’s Twitter account. The actor has announced that he has signed to play the lead role of poet/novelist Edgar Allan Poe in The Raven. Jeremy Renner and Ewan McGregor had previously been mentioned as starring, but what was unclear was which was going to play Poe. With Jeremy Renner busy with Mission: Impossible IV and The Avengers (and Ewan McGregor being totally Scottish), it appears most likely that John Cusack is replacing Jeremy Renner, and perhaps McGregor will still be involved. The Raven is not a direct adaptation of Poe’s poem, but is rather a serial killer thriller. In this story, Poe is tasked with solving a series of murders inspired by his many famous stories in his hometown of Baltimore in the 1840s. The Raven was cowritten by newcomer Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare, who adapted the 2005 film Loverboy and served as story editor on the recent NBC reboot of The Bionic Woman. The Raven will be the third movie from director James McTeigue, following V for Vendetta and last year’s Ninja Assassin (and he was also the first AD on big movies like The Matrix trilogy and Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones). One final thing I noticed about the casting of John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe is that Cusack (6′ 3″) is considerably taller than the author (5′ 8″) was. Or perhaps McTeigue will just surround Cusack with giants (or figure that no one really knows or cares how tall Poe was).
Angelina Jolie’s name came up associated with two very different projects this week. First, while visiting Sarajevo last Saturday as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations, Angelina Jolie announced her plans to soon start working on a love story set during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war. However, these plans do not include Jolie adopting an Eastern European accent and dressing down to play a refugee, as she’s actually planning on personally directing and producing the script she’s written herself. Jolie plans on casting local actors of Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian descent. Of the project, Angelina Jolie said, “The film is a love story, not a political statement… I would like to involve as many local people as possible and learn as much as I can.” Angelina Jolie has a bit of a reputation of being frequently associated with movies, and then dropping out (often because of script issues), but in this case, if that happens, at least some poor screenwriter isn’t at risk of losing a potential gig because of it. As for movies that Angelina Jolie is not writing, the latest potential project is a film adaptation of the 2009 British television miniseries Unforgiven. The tricky thing there of course is that there is sort of already a very popular and highly acclaimed film of that title from a few years back. Unless they do something like just throw a The on the title (and figure few people remember the 1960 western starring Burt Lancaster and Audrey Hepburn). The Unforgiven series told the story of a woman recently released from prison for the murder of two policeman, and whose attempt to settle back into her life is interrupted by two revenge-seeking sons of one of the officers that she killed. The Unforgiven adaptation is being produced by the same British company that backed Jolie’s upcoming thriller The Tourist. Unforgiven is being adapted as a much shorter movie by Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects; cowriter of Valkyrie), who also cowrote The Tourist and is currently working on X-Men Origins: Wolverine 2.
In June, Marvel Studios started development on Dr. Strange, likely making it the first major new project that will be distributed by Marvel’s new owner Disney. That news followed over a decade of development of a Dr. Strange movie, and this week, another character that has been in development since the 20th century got a new start. Iron Fist (AKA Daniel Rand) was first introduced in 1974 to appeal to fans of the kung fu/martial arts movies that were popular in that decade. Iron Fist went on to become best known as the filling in the superhero Oreo that was Heroes for Hire, along with Luke Cage (who has also had a movie in development for a very long time). The Iron Fist origin story borrows heavily from the classic novel Lost Horizon, as Daniel Rand is the young son of wealthy westerners that discovered the legendary lost city of K’un L’un in Asia, and who is raised there and taught the secrets of martial arts. Daniel eventually defeats a magical dragon, and when his fists plunge into the dragon’s heart, they become “iron fists.” Daniel gains the ability to focus his chi and become a superhuman martial arts fighting machine. Iron Fist also wore a bright green and yellow outfit that looked great in the comics but might need some work for a live-action movie (especially that ten inch tall popped collar that stands straight up over his shoulders). Anyway, now that you know who Iron Fist was, the actual movie news is that Marvel has hired Rich Wilkes (xXx, Airheads) to start work on a screenplay draft adapting Iron Fist for the big screen. And that’s the part that lands Iron Fist in the Rotten Idea section this week. The idea of an Iron Fist movie has always been “fresh” (even ten years ago, when Artisan wanted Ray Park, AKA The Toad and Darth Maul to star). However, Rich Wilkes’ filmography (which also includes cowriting The Stöned Age and The Jerky Boys) is not exactly promising. Consider this a borderline “rotten idea” with the awesomeness of Iron Fist conflicting with who Marvel chose to actually write it.
A comprehensive study of the movies during 1980s really wouldn’t be complete without considering Dolly Parton. She made her film debut in 1980 with Nine to Five, followed that with The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and Rhinestone, and ended the decade with Steel Magnolias. Only Nine to Five is particularly great, but Rhinestone is so ridiculous (Stallone sings country!) that, like I say, we really can’t forget how Parton impacted the movies. After that period, Dolly Parton made fewer movies, choosing to focus on her music, touring and her Dollywood theme park. Except for a cameo appearance as herself in Miss Congeniality 2, Dolly Parton’s last appearance in a movie was in 2002’s Frank McKlusky, C.I., but now Dolly is coming back to the big screen. Dolly Parton, Queen Latifah and their four best friends are teaming up for a musical movie called Joyful Noise. The film will be about two women from different backgrounds who join forces to prevent a small town’s gospel choir from shutting down. The Warner Bros musical was written by and will be directed by Todd Graff (Camp, Bandslam). Todd Graff was also one of the regular kids in the 1970s PBS show The Electric Company. Queen Latifah will play the mother of two teens, who is put in charge of the gospel choir after the death of the former director, and Dolly Parton will play his widow who also wants the job. Joyful Noise is one of this week’s Rotten Ideas only marginally, but the reason I ultimately pegged it here is because gospel movies have a history of being, you know, a little bit maudlin and cheesy. However, Todd Graff’s Camp was indeed a fun movie (that did the Glee thing way earlier), so maybe it will turn out to be awesome. If Sylvester Stallone takes the role of Dolly’s ex-husband and we get to hear him sing “Amazing Grace,” then I will totally change my tune.
Steve Carell’s box office track record of late is pretty great (Dinner for Schmucks is the low point of his last five movies, and even that is likely to top $70 million). Of course, that’s presuming you include the animated movies Horton Hears a Who! and Despicable Me. With Carell leaving The Office after this season, the comedian will definitely be a lot more available for movie roles and Warner Bros (where he has his production deal) continues to add projects to his development slate. The latest Steve Carell project at Warner Bros’ is the studio’s English-language remake of the 2008 Argentinian romantic comedy A Boyfriend for My Wife. It’s the story of a man who tries to get out of his marriage by setting his wife up with a “legendary yet unlikely Lothario.” If this American version stars Steve Carell as the husband, one has to imagine someone like Jack Black, Seth Rogen or Will Ferrell as the “unlikely Lothario” (or maybe even Rainn Wilson). Steve Carell is also producing A Boyfriend for My Wife, which is currently being adapted by the writing team of Mark Gibson and Phil Halprin (cowriters of The Wild, Snow Dogs). And that right there is the part that lands A Boyfriend for My Wife in the Rotten Idea category; those movies are awful.
Jessica Alba is in talks to star as a mom to the new espionage enthusiast preteens in Robert Rodriguez’s Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World. Alba’s role will be as the mother of a baby and the stepmother of the two children who will be the newest Spy Kids. The new spies are replacing Alexa Vega (now 23, engaged, and totally not looking like a kid) and Daryl Sabara (now 18 and looking a lot like Rob Schneider). Vega, Sabara and Antonio Banderas are expected to return in supporting roles, but there’s no word yet about Carla Gugino returning (which is disappointing). Alba’s character will also be a retired spy who has recently been reactivated, and the search is on for her husband, a “slightly nerdy investigative reporter.” Spy Kids 4 will mark the third time Jessica Alba has worked with Robert Rodriguez (who is writing and directing, as he did with the first three movies), after Sin City and the upcoming Machete. Rodriguez is expecting to start filming in September in Austin, Texas on a budget of less than $30 million. This news is this week’s most Rotten Idea for two reasons. First, although the first two movies were definitely Fresh here at RT (93% for Spy Kids, 75% for Spy Kids 2), the franchise continues a downward slide with the 45% given to Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over. More than that, however, Spy Kids 4 news in general is rotten because of the ticking of time (ironic because the villain is “The Time Keeper”). Any time Robert Rodriguez spends making his kids movies like the Spy Kids franchise, The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D and last year’s Shorts is time he is not devoting to making movies more of us probably want to see, like Sin City 2 and his possibly never-going-to-happen plans for Red Sonja and the adaptation of Mike Allred’s crazy comic book series Madman.