This was another busy week in Hollywood, with quite a bit of big news. Hollywood’s ongoing obsession with remakes is particularly evident, as remakes of Fantastic Voyage, Highlander, Jack the Giant Killer, Logan’s Run and Red Sonja are all covered this week. Finally, I should mention that this week marked my third anniversary at Rotten Tomatoes as the writer of the Weekly Ketchup. My very first column was published on February 8, 2008, which made Rotten Tomatoes my new online home after ten years as the creator and writer of Upcomingmovies.com.
This Week’s Top Story
RYAN GOSLING GOES FOR A JOG IN LOGAN’S RUN
Ordinarily, this column is a bit of a Negative Nancy when it comes to remakes. However, that’s usually because the original was a good movie to begin with. Such was not necessarily the case with the 1976 science fiction film Logan’s Run (regardless of its 70% Tomatometer, which seems to be viewed through rose-colored glasses). Logan’s Run was based upon a 1967 novel by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson about a future society where utopia was maintained by killing everyone when they reached a certain age (21 in the book, 30 in the movie). A look back at the original Logan’s Run trailer makes Star Wars, which came out just a year later, look even more amazing. Warner Bros has been trying to remake Logan’s Run for nearly a decade, including a time in which Bryan Singer was attached to direct, before eventually moving on to Jack the Giant Slayer (see below). Now, the Logan’s Run remake finally has not only a director, but a star (who is in talks). Director Nicolas Winding Refn (Bronson, Valhalla Rising) will reunite with Ryan Gosling, the star of his next film (Drive, due out September 16, 2011). Gosling will play the title role originated by Michael York. This is a career change for Ryan Gosling, who has mostly focused recently on non-studio projects, although he has appeared in a few like The Notebook, Remember the Titans and Murder by Numbers.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 E (EINSTEIN) = M (MOVIE) TIMES C (COOLNESS) SQUARED
The production company of producer Paul Schiff (Rushmore, Young Guns) has announced that filming is expected to start soon on Einstein, a biopic about famed German physicist Albert Einstein. Einstein will be directed by Wayne Wang (Smoke, Blue in the Face, Maid in Manhattan) from a screenplay by Academy Award winner Ronald Bass (Dangerous Minds; cowriter of Rain Man, Amelia). Here’s what one of the producers had to say about the movie’s scope: “People don’t know about his struggles with poverty, his dyslexia, his love for music, his relationships with the women in his life, his persecution by the Nazis and his battle to deal with living in the public eye and being under constant scrutiny. Ron’s screenplay peels back the layers and allows us to see past Einstein the scientist and Einstein the celebrity, showing us Einstein the man.” The casting search for the actor to play Albert Einstein will now start in the next few weeks. Einstein is expected to be filmed mostly in Germany and at other locations throughout Europe.
#2 THE STAR OF ABOUT A BOY IS ALL GROWN UP AND READY TO DO SOME GIANT KILLING
The star of one of my favorite movies of the last 10 years was in Clash of the Titans last year, and has been cast in X-Men: First Class as the Beast, and I didn’t even realize it until today. Nicholas Hoult, who starred in About a Boy with Hugh Grant at age 12, is now 21 years old and barely recognizable (unless you’re looking for it, I would argue). Hoult has also now landed his first major starring role since About a Boy, and there’s a good chance it will be a high profile star-making movie. Nicholas Hoult will star as the title character in Jack the Giant Killer, the big budget Warner Bros adaptation of the Jack and the Beanstalk fairy tale that director Bryan Singer (X-Men, Superman Returns) has been trying to get made for a few years now. Stanley Tucci has also signed on to costar, playing an advisor to the (human) king of Jack’s kingdom, and the film’s main villain. Bill Nighy (Love, Actually) will play Fallon, the leader of the giants, who is also two-headed, with the other head being played by John Kassir (the voice of the Cryptkeeper from Tales from the Crypt). The IMDb lists six other previous movies called Jack the Giant Killer, with the most high profile adaptation being the 1962 film starring Kerwin Matthews, which featured stop motion animation that was not done by Ray Harryhausen, and is generally considered to be sort of awful. Mickey Mouse also starred in the short film Mickey and the Beanstalk, which was part of the Fun and Fancy Free anthology in 1947. Filming of Jack the Giant Killer starts in March, 2011.
#3 DAKOTA FANNING JOINING THE ROYAL FAMILY IN GIRLS’ NIGHT OUT
In the same week that saw the release of the first image of Meryl Streep as Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, another famous British Margaret has been cast. American actress Dakota Fanning (who will soon turn 17) will star in the British production Girls’ Night Out. The movie will be set during the original V.E. Day (Victory in Europe Day) in 1945, when teenage Princesses Margaret (Fanning) and Elizabeth were allowed out of Buckingham Palace for one night to join in the public celebrations. The role of Princess Elizabeth (AKA the current Queen) has yet to be cast. On May 8, 1945, Princess Margaret was 14, and Princess Elizabeth was 19, and she was 27 when she was coronated eight years later in 1953. Princess Margaret went on to suffer many years of illness, including having her left lung removed in 1985, suffering several strokes and eventually dying in 2002. Queen Elizabeth, on the other hand, has been reigning now for 59 years, and at age 84 appears to still be in remarkable health. Girls’ Night Out will be directed by British director Michael Hoffman (The Last Station, One Fine Day). Hoffman is currently working on the remake of the 1966 caper Gambit, working from a script adapted by the Coen Brothers, which will star Colin Firth and Cameron Diaz.
#4 HARRY HOUDINI AND ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE TO HEAR VOICES FROM THE DEAD
This writer discovered while working on this piece that two historical figures that he associated more with the 19th century actually lived well into the 1920s. Escape artist Harry Houdini died in 1926 and Sherlock Holmes author Arthur Conan Doyle died in 1930. Not only that, but the two were good friends (something else I didn’t know). That friendship is the basis for an original screenplay picked up by DreamWorks this week from screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski (Changeling; cowriter of Ninja Assassin), who also was the creator of the Babylon 5 television series. Voices from the Dead tells the (fictional) story of Houdini and Doyle teaming up with a psychic to solve a series of murders in 1920s New York City. One thing that is particularly interesting about this concept is that neither man was particularly young in 1920: Houdini was 46, and Doyle was 61. So, that gives an idea of who might be cast in Voices from the Dead (particularly Doyle), if DreamWorks is planning on being faithful to their ages. Two days after this story broke, it was revealed that the SyFy channel is also developing a series about Houdini and Doyle solving mysteries in 1920s New York City. Called Among the Spirits, the series will team the duo up with a female police officer and will feature them investigating mysteries that appear to be supernatural, but aren’t necessarily (tying in with Houdini’s second career as a debunker).
#5 ZOMBIES ATE MY NEIGHBORS EYES MOVIE THEATERS FOR DESSERT
In recent months, several video game adaptations have made the Rotten Ideas list mostly because the original games had very little narrative to base a movie upon (i.e. Missile Command). By the 1990s, however, video games did indeed start to have well-defined stories. One such game was the 1993 Super Nintendo/Sega Genesis title Zombies Ate My Neighbors, which was a comedic homage to classic horror movies and the zombie genre in particular. Zombies Ate My Neighbors was not a commercial success, but the LucasArts/Konami collaboration was well reviewed, and with time (and nostalgia) has become a minor cult classic. The game followed two teenagers as they advanced through 50 levels of neighborhood terrain, fighting an assortment of movie-style monsters that included vampires and werewolves in addition to zombies. Now, screenwriter John Darko (who doesn’t yet have any produced theatrical releases to his credit) is working on finding financing for an independent adaptation of Zombies Ate My Neighbors as a comedic horror movie in the style of Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead. This story was ignored by most sites this week, possibly because of its current independent status, but it’s being included here because this seems like the sort of potentially clever and cool videogame adaptation that should be encouraged.
#6 STEPHENIE MEYER’S THE HOST BEING ADAPTED BY A TEAM TOO TALENTED TO BE LABELED ROTTEN
With the last two parts of the Twilight Saga adaptations now being filmed, Hollywood is getting ready to move on to Stephenie Meyer’s other books, starting with the 2008 science fiction novel The Host. The book is set on a version of Earth where most people have been taken over by “altruistic parasites” (which seems like an oxymoron). There are a few “resistors,” including a young lady named Melanie Stryder who becomes involved in a love triangle that involves two people and an alien parasite. The premise of The Host arguably has some similarities to that of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, in which a werewolf falls in love with a telepathic baby. The Host will be directed by British director Susanna White, whose previous work includes Nanny McPhee Returns, the BBC mini-series Jane Eyre and the HBO mini-series Generation Kill. The Host was adapted by screenwriter and Academy Award nominee Andrew Niccol (The Truman Show, Gattaca), who is currently the science thriller Now (which has a similar premise to Logan’s Run, see above). Unlike most stories about The Twilight Saga, The Host lands in the Fresh Development category because the novel actually did receive a lot of positive reviews, and both Susanna White and Andrew Niccol have promising resumes.
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#3 COMEDY DIRECTOR SETS OFF ON A FANTASTIC VOYAGE
Fantastic Voyage, released in 1966, was a science fiction thriller about a submarine containing team of scientists that is shrunk to microscopic size so that it can fix a deadly clot in a scientist’s brain. James Cameron has been trying to get a 3D remake of Fantastic Voyage produced for quite a while now, but the problem of finding a director has kept it stalled until now. 20th Century Fox has hired comedy director Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum, Date Night, The Pink Panther) to work on the Fantastic Voyage remake. This new Fantastic Voyage has been referred to as more of a “re-imagining” than a remake (although one could argue that the two mean the same thing these days), and now with the hiring of Levy, we get an idea of what sort of re-imagining is likely being done. The script was adapted by Shane Salerno (Armageddon, Aliens Vs Predator: Requiem) and was rewritten by Laeta Kalogridis (Pathfinder, Shutter Island). The screenwriters don’t seem to suggest a comedic approach, but it’s possible that Levy is being brought in to give the movie a comic touch that is more visual and transcends what is on the written page. The other possibility is that Shawn Levy is trying to move into non-comedic material, which his upcoming “boxing robot” movie Real Steel also appears to be doing. However, since we only know Levy’s comedic work, it’s difficult to discern how effective Fantastic Voyage will be, whatever he does with the premise. And it’s the premise that truly lands Fantastic Voyage in the Rotten Idea category. With nanotechnology getting more and more advanced, it would no longer really be necessary for actual scientists to be shrunk down, when there are already tiny robots that could be used to perform this operation. And if nanotech can’t do this specific operation now, they will probably be able to in a few years, certainly before anyone perfects a “shrinking ray.” That, however, wasn’t the only news that Shawn Levy and 20th Century Fox made this week. Levy will produce with Fox Animation an adaptation of the popular Mr. Men illustrated children’s books by British author Roger Hargreaves. Hargreaves wrote 48 Mr. Men books, and the colorful “smiley face” characters have been adapted into four different animated television series.
#2 AMBER HEARD WANTED TO DON THE CHAIN MAIL BIKINI OF RED SONJA
Red Sonja is a chain mail bikini-clad warrior amazon who has her adventures in the same Hyborian Age as Robert E. Howard’s Conan, and she first appeared in the 1970s Marvel Comics adaptations of that character. Red Sonja was eventually adapted as a 1985 movie starring Brigitte Nielsen and Arnold Schwarzenegger (though not as Conan). In recent years, director Robert Rodriguez had been working on a new Red Sonja movie which would have starred his then-girlfriend Rose McGowan, but in 2010, Rodriguez’s project was put on hold. Now, producer Avi Lerner, who produced the upcoming Conan the Barbarian reboot, has announced that Red Sonja is still moving forward, and is expected to be produced in between Conan the Barbarian and its expected sequel. Lerner’s comments bring us two bits of news, the first of which is that Simon West (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Con Air) has been chosen to direct. The latest news about Simon West was that he was planning on reuniting with Nicolas Cage on an action movie called Medallion. As for who Lerner wants to cast as Red Sonja herself, the producer said, “we just finished a movie called Drive Angry with Amber Heard, and I want to see her. She’s my favorite for the role.” Amber Heard is possibly best known for starring in All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, and she also had a small role in Zombieland. It’s also curious that she was in Drive Angry, which also stars Nicolas Cage, which ties this movie back to director Simon West again (which suggests, perhaps, that Cage could be recruited to star in Red Sonja as well… but that’s just speculation). Red Sonja is one of this week’s Rotten Ideas, however, mostly because Red Sonja seems like a low-grade sword and sorcery concept that would mostly be made for its T&A appeal. Yes, chain mail bikinis are sexy, but can you imagine how uncomfortable that outfit is?
#1 HIGHLANDER REMAKE PROVES THAT THERE CAN BE MORE THAN ONE
Back in 2008, Summit Entertainment announced plans to remake the classic 1986 fantasy film Highlander. Highlander starred Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery and introduced the world to a supernatural struggle (set in the “real world”) between immortal warriors that is epitomized by the often-referenced tagline, “there can be only one.” Highlander went on to become a very prolific franchise, including six movies (one of them animated), three television series (one of them animated), a comic book and ten novels. There hasn’t been much to talk about the Highlander reboot in the last three years, but this week, the project came back out of obscurity with quite a bit of news to make up for lost time. Neal Moritz, the producer of such big action movies as I Am Legend and the xXx and Fast and the Furious franchises, is now producing the Highlander reboot for Summit Entertainment. Along with him, Moritz has hired director Justin Lin, who directed three of the five movies in that latter franchise: The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, 2009’s Fast & Furious and the upcoming Fast Five. One has to wonder if that means that Connor MacLeod will be spending a lot of time in souped-up race cars as well as wielding his head-chopping sword. However, it’s the screenwriter that really gives us an idea of what sort of Highlander reboot this might be. In addition to producing many episodes of The O.C., Dexter and Birds of Prey, Melissa Rosenberg is best known as the sole screenwriter of all five adaptations of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga (she also cowrote Step Up). Back when the Highlander reboot was first announced in 2008, it was described as having more of a romantic element than the original. The choice of Melissa Rosenberg as the screenwriter seems to back that up, and that’s why this is the week’s Most Rotten Idea. Does anyone really want to see Highlander rebooted and reshaped to appeal to Twilight fans, probably with scenes of Connor and Juan (Sean Connery in the original) moping about the stresses and romantic complications of immortality?
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.