This Week’s Ketchup covers seven days of movie development news that was punctuated right in the middle by the loss of two of Hollywood’s greatest stars. Movies that still made the news this week included Aquaman, Bad Boys 3, Ben-Hur, Betty Boop, Inhumans, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2.
This Week’s Top Story
R.I.P. ROBIN WILLIAMS AND LAUREN BACALL
This week, the whole world experienced a celebrity death that quickly inspired a social media sensation: Robin Williams died at his home in Marin County of what was later reported to be self-inflicted asphyxiation. Sadly coincidentally, the death of Robin Williams was one of the saddest celebrity deaths since Heath Ledger died in 2008 before the release of The Dark Knight, playing The Joker, a role which director Christopher Nolan had previously considered giving to his Insomnia star… Robin Williams. Robin Williams’ career started with the hit ABC comedy Mork and Mindy, which was followed by a movie career that included both comedies (Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, The Birdcage), dramas (Dead Poets Society, Awakenings, Good Will Hunting), and films which were sort of inbetween (The World According to Garp, Good Morning, Vietnam, The Fisher King). Robin Williams left us with four films that are still on their way: Merry Friggin’ Christmas (11/7/14), Night at the Museum 3: Secret of the Tomb (12/19/14), the drama Boulevard, and Absolutely Anything, in which Williams provides the voice of Simon Pegg’s character’s dog. In what was probably the week’s most obvious movie news, Variety quickly announced that plans for Mrs. Doubtfire 2 are, pun possibly not intended, “in doubt.” The social networking juggernaut that resulted from the passing of Robin Williams was given even deeper resonance by the passing, soon after, of Lauren Bacall, who died on Tuesday at the age of 89, to decidedly fewer online memorials. Married first to Humphrey Bogart (until his death in 1957), and then to Jason Robards, Lauren Bacall’s career spanned some dozens of movies (like To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, Key Largo, and The Shootist), a Golden Globe, an Academy Award nomination, and an honorary Academy Award.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 TOM HIDDLESTON: FROM MARVEL’S LOKI TO… BEN-HUR?
Every once in a while with movies with premises that seem fairly obviously “rotten,” this writer has to change everything when a move is made that runs counter to that. For example, MGM and Paramount have been developing, for a while now, a reboot of the classic Biblical epic Ben-Hur, from Russian director Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter). There have been multiple adaptations of Ben-Hur for both film and TV, all based upon the 1880 novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, by Lew Wallace. The 1959 version featured Charlton Heston in the lead role, and won a then-record number (11!) of Academy Awards (which was later tied by Titanic and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King). The surprising news this week that is changing opinions about this reboot is that it is British actor Tom Hiddleston who is now in talks to take the starring role. With his appearances as Loki in not only Marvel’s movies, but also at San Diego Comic Con, in costume, as Loki, Tom Hiddleston has arguably become one of Marvel’s most reliable stars. MGM and Paramount have scheduled this latest version of Ben-Hur for February 26, 2016, making it currently the only movie scheduled for the last half of that month. Tom Hiddleston’s next films include Guillermo del Toro’s ghost movie Crimson Peak, and the 1970s-set period film High Rise.
#2 WILL MARVEL’S INHUMANS LEAVE VIN DIESEL SPEECHLESS?
Starting in 2017, it appears that Marvel Studios will be releasing three movies a year. We know that Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is scheduled for July 28, 2017, but we don’t know what films will be released on May 5, 2017 or November 3, 2017. Vin Diesel is helping get a pretty good idea what one of those films will be. It all started when Vin Diesel posted on his Facebook page, “I get the strange feeling that Marvel thinks I’m Inhuman… Haha.” The key letter there is the capital “I,” because one of Marvel’s family of superheroes (literally) are the Inhumans, who were first introduced in the 1960s. This was followed a few days later by a report that one of the other scripts to come out of the same Marvel writers program that started Guardians of the Galaxy was… Inhumans (by newcomer Joe Robert Cole). There are several threads that seem to suggest Inhumans is indeed on Marvel’s short list. First off, it helps to know that the “Inhumans” are a secret race of powered individuals who are descended from genetic experiments done on relatives of humans thousands of years ago by Kree scientists. Yes, that’s right, the Kree, as in the alien race seen in Guardians of the Galaxy. In fact, in the comics, the leader of the Inhumans, called Black Bolt, becomes the ruler of the Kree Empire, and his sister Crystal marries Ronan the Accuser (who is her second husband after Quicksilver, who will be in next year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron). Director James Gunn also came out this week and said that Peter Quill’s father won’t be the same person that it was in the comics, which has led people to start guessing, and one possibility is Black Bolt. Black Bolt is the king of the Inhumans, but his super power is that his voice is so powerful that he must live his life being almost entirely mute, and that… brings us back to Vin Diesel. Although Vin Diesel costarred in Guardians of the Galaxy as the voice of Groot, he hasn’t yet actually “appeared” in a Marvel movie, but if he played Black Bolt, he could do that, but without having to talk much (and when Black Bolt does open his mouth, there’s usually explosions and continents cracking). Because the Inhumans have connections to both the Kree Empire and the planet Earth, it’s possible they could be teased or introduced in Avengers: Age of Ultron or Guardians of the Galaxy 2 before eventually appearing in their own movie in 2017.
#3 SANSA FROM GAME OF THRONES AS THE TITLE CHARACTER IN MARY SHELLEY’S MONSTER
Two weeks ago, Maisie Williams, who plays Arya Stark in Game of Thrones, appeared in the Weekly Ketchup because of reports that she might star in the movie version of The Last of Us. This week, the Stark daughter actress who made the news was Sophie Turner, the redhead English actress who plays the perpetually put-upon Sansa Stark on the show. Sophie Turner has been cast in the lead role in Mary Shelley’s Monster, playing the early 19th century Romantic author and wife to Percy Bysshe Shelley, who will be played by Jeremy Irvine (War Horse, The Railway Man). This film about the author of Frankenstein comes from writer Deborah Baxtrom, who wrote/directed/produced/edited the British comedy TV series Living with Frankenstein, about the Shelleys, Lord Byron, and Frankenstein’s Monster living together in modern Los Angeles, 180 years later. In Mary Shelley’s Monster, Sophie Turner will play the writer as someone who is ” drawn into a Faustian bargain with her own ?monster? of an alter ego, who offers literary fame at a desperate personal cost.” Meanwhile, there’s also 20th Century Fox’s Frankenstein, featuring James McAvoy and Frankenstein, and Daniel Radcliffe as his assistant Igor, which is scheduled for release on October 2, 2015.
#4 THIS WEEK IN RELEASE DATES: GODZILLA 2, THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., POWER RANGERS, OTHERS
There’s new release dates announced every week of the year, but the last few weeks have seen dates for more high profile films than is usual. The “biggest” movie in this latest batch is Godzilla 2 (or whatever it’s eventually called), which Warner Bros has now set for release on June 8, 2018. Some of this release date news is due to changes in the calendar, such as move of titles away from October of 2014, like Kingsman: The Secret Service (now on 2/13/15) and the North Korea-set comedy The Interview (now on 12/25/14). One of the movies that is now scheduled for October instead is the Brad Pitt-starring World War II tank action movie Fury, which was moved up a month from 11/14/14 to October 17, 2014. Another war movie to get a 2014 release date this week was Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, based on the true story of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, which is now scheduled for December 25, 2014. Another recent event that seems to be impacting release decisions is the success of Guardians of the Galaxy and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with dates in August (or in late summer, in general). The most obvious example of this is Warner Bros’ adaptation of the TV series The Man from U.N.C.L.E., which was bumped back several months from this coming January until August 14, 2015. Additions to late July (in two different years) came in the form of Sony’s video game comedy Pixels moving from May 15, 2015 to July 24, 2015, and Lionsgate scheduling the TV show adaptation Power Rangers for July 22, 2016.
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#5 SIMON COWELL PRODUCING BETTY BOOP MOVIE
Now that The X Factor has been cancelled by FOX, TV producer Simon Cowell appears to have more time on his hands, as possibly evidenced by this week’s news. Simon Cowell’s Syco Entertainment is uniting with animation studio Animal Logic Entertainment (Happy Feet, The LEGO Movie) for an adaptation of the classic cartoon character Betty Boop. First introduced by cartoonist Max Fleischer in 1930, it was in 1932 that Betty Boop first started starring in her own animated shorts, which continued throughout the 1930s. In addition to various attempts at repopularizing the character in other media, Betty Boop has also appeared in advertisements, including the United Football League, and Hypnose Star Mascara from the Lancome makeup company. This new Betty Boop movie produced by Simon Cowell is being described as a “a hybrid animated comedy feature that’s driven by music.” In addition to the American Idol and America’s Got Talent TV shows, Simon Cowell also has the musical movie One Chance (itself inspired by a true story from Britain’s Got Talent) coming soon.
#4 AQUAMAN SOLO MOVIE IN THE WORKS (PROBABLY STARRING JASON MOMOA)
Another comic book royal that was in the news quite a bit this week is King Orin of Atlantis, AKA Aquaman. The week started on Friday (but the news broke after the Weekly Ketchup “went to press”, so to speak). While filming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in Detroit, director Zack Snyder heard some local radio personalities joking about Aquaman. By now, we’re sort of used to any sort of humor being associated with DC superhero movies, but the memo apparently hadn’t been sent to Detroit morning zoo crews. So, to defend Aquaman, Zack Snyder called the radio station, and sort of went crazy with the comic book minutiae dropping. This included the revelation that Aquaman could “cut the flesh of Superman if they came in contact,” which we can probably interpret as meaning that there will totally be a scene where Aquaman cuts Superman in the movie. Hopefully, Superman won’t break Aquaman’s neck in response. One clue that he won’t be doing that is that Warner Bros this week hired two different screenwriters to work on Aquaman solo movies. It’s not particularly common, but “dual track” screenplays allow for studios to potentially develop a script faster. It’s also a practice that some professional writers find questionable. Anyway, the two writers who are competing with each other, all reality TV-style, are Will Beall (Gangster Squad) and Kurt Johnstad (Act of Valor), who was also one of Zach Snyder’s cowriters on 300 and the sequel 300: Rise of an Empire. Of those four movies, only 300 scored higher than 42% on the RT Tomatometer.
#3 JOURNEY FRANCHISE GETTING TWO SEQUELS FROM WRITERS OF HOUSE OF WAX AND WHITEOUT
New Line Cinema confirmed this week plans to continue making sequels to the franchise that started with Journey to the Center of the Earth and 2012’s Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. Although the second movie seemed to end with fairly concrete evidence that a third movie would be based upon From Earth to the Moon, it is now being said that the third and fourth movies might go to completely different settings. Journey to the Center of the Earth, The Mysterious Island, and From Earth to the Moon were all books by 19th century French science fiction author Jules Verne. New Line Cinema has hired screenwriting team of brothers Chad and Corey Hayes, whose filmography includes such “Rotten” titles as House of Wax (25%), The Reaping (8%), and Whiteout (7%), although their 2013 movie The Conjuring did get good reviews (86% “Fresh”). Instead of just a third movie, New Line Cinema appears to be considering greenlighting a fourth film as well, with #3 and #4 possibly being filmed back-to-back. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is signed to reprise his role from Journey 2: The Mysterious Island in both films.
#2 MARTIN LAWRENCE DISPLAYS HORRIBLE SENSE OF TIMING WITH BAD BOYS 3 ANNOUNCEMENT
While the rest of the country is in shock and dismay over the events in Ferguson, MO, Martin Lawrence decided it would be a great time to go on national television and talk about doing another Bad Boys movie. (20th Century Fox also released Let’s Be Cops on Wednesday, but they really couldn’t have pulled the movie from theaters two days before release.) Actually, that’s just a quibble about the timing of Martin Lawrence’s appearance on Conan (which was seen by people hoping to see Conan’s tribute to Robin Williams). This story would be “rotten” regardless, following the 23% “Rotten” scores that Bad Boys II earned back in 2003. The idea of a third Bad Boys movie has been floating around since 2003, but the last we heard much about it was in 2010. Martin Lawrence’s update went like this, “I just talked to Jerry Bruckheimer… yesterday and he said its real. They?re working on the script, they?re getting close and it all looks good.” It was Conan O’Brien who technically asked about Bad Boys III, but the questions on late night talk shows are usually discussed ahead of time.
#1 TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES GETS 2016 SEQUEL… WHICH MIGHT FEATURE KRANG
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles opened this past weekend to over $65 million (the 10th largest of 2014 so far). Not surprisingly, Paramount Pictures had already by Sunday afternoon announced plans to release a sequel to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on June 3, 2016. Michael Bay will also produce the sequel, but it’s not yet known if director Jonathan Liebesman, who also directed such “Rotten” films as Battle: Los Angeles, Darkness Falls, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning will be returning to help ensure Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 also gets horrible reviews. Having said that, it certainly sounds like Liebesman thinks he’s returning for the sequel, because he’s already talking about plans that might include expanding the movies to “Dimension X” for the first time, which is where cartoon villain Krang comes from. Speaking of big brained mutates who get around in metal forms, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 may end up playing catch up in 2016. The reason for this is that screenwriter Christopher Markus, who is currently working on Captain America 3, revealed this week that it’s his hope that they will be able to include M.O.D.O.K. in the sequel, and that movie, as is much publicisized already, will be released on May 6, 2016, less than a month before Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2. And as big as Krang’s head is, he’s no M.O.D.O.K. Krang was first introduced in 1987, and M.O.D.O.K. was first introduced in 1967, twenty years earlier. When he’s inside his robot body, Krang also resembles the comic book version of Arnim Zola, who also appeared in the first two Captain America movies. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles themselves also first started as spoofs of Marvel’s Daredevil (Stick and the Hand became Splinter and the Foot, and they all share radioactive goo-nealogy).
For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS via Facebook.