This is the week of Comic-Con International 2009 in San Diego, and so the world of movie news, and in particular, big fan-friendly projects, is quite active. Weekly Ketchup writer Greg Dean Schmitz unfortunately didn’t get the opportunity to visit the mega convention this year, but he was still able to combine some of its biggest and juiciest news items with others that actually happened in Hollywood, a hop, skip, and a jump away from San Diego. Since this column has been written midway through the convention, it’s possible some hot items might get missed this week, but as of publication, here’s how the week stands.
Director Sam Raimi (the Spider-Man and Evil Dead franchises) has signed on with Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures (The Dark Knight, 300, Watchmen) to be the man who brings Blizzard Entertainment’s Warcraft video game fantasy franchise to the big screen. Sam Raimi will be overseeing the development of the movie over the next several months with expectations that he will move on to film Warcraft after he wraps Spider-Man 4 next year for Columbia Pictures. Warcraft got its start as a series of real-time strategy games for the PC, before being adapted as the immensely popular World of Warcraft MMORPG (which, it’s worth noting, is not the title of this movie). Warcraft is set in the fantasy world of Azeroth, in which two powerful factions, the Alliance and the Horde, are pitted against each other, sometimes in all out war (the RTS games) and more recently in a sort of cold war stalemate (World of Warcraft). What exactly the story will be about is unknown, especially since, with Raimi’s involvement, it appears that the previous scripts might be thrown out as screenwriter Gary Whitta is now off the project. All of the Warcraft games are very dependent upon story, and have created a dense lore and mythology which offers enough material for several epic movies.
Apparently as a sort of a lead up article to Comic-Con, The Hollywood Reporter this week published a summary of DC Comics’ various comic book adaptation plans, with an emphasis on the company’s renewed focus on increasing their efforts. The next three movies will be Jonah Hex, The Losers and of course, Green Lantern. Other projects that DC and Warner Bros are actively developing at the moment include The Flash, Aquaman, Green Arrow (as well as Super Max, in which Green Arrow is also the central hero), Shazam, a Constantine sequel, a movie about space adventurer Adam Strange, and perhaps most surprisingly, a movie about one of Superman’s most famous villains, Bizarro, which the trade refers to as Bizarro Superman. These movies, based on what some might call DC’s “second string” heroes, seem able to get produced with less drama than the three characters that are noticeably absent from the list: Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, all three of which the studio still has interest in adapting but admits are each perhaps years from happening.
This week’s Comic-Con has brought talk of several big movies that might start filming soon (mostly next year). First up, however, separate from Comic-Con, was director Steven Sommers’ revelation in Australia that G.I. Joe 2 is expected to start filming next summer, with apparently both Sommers and the full cast already signed on. Next up is the fourth Pirates of the Carribean movie from Disney, which an executive revealed they expect to start filming in April or May of 2010. The early word is that the movie will indeed still feature Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, but that some of the other actors (namely Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley) may not continue on in what is being described as the start of a second trilogy for the franchise. In other Johnny Depp news, also at Comic-Con, Tim Burton revealed that, of the many projects to which he is attached, his next film after Alice in Wonderland will be his adaptation of the horror soap opera Dark Shadows, which will star Depp as the vampire Barnabas Collins. Finally, in the take-this-one-with-a-grain-of-salt category, Gary Oldman revealed at the Book of Eli conference that he is signed to start filming the third Batman movie next year, despite reports that seem to suggest that WB’s plans for the movie might not be done by that time.
Yesterday at Comic-Con, after screening 20+ minutes of his upcoming CGI-heavy science fiction epic Avatar, James Cameron also announced that August 21, 2009 will be Avatar Day, when 20th Century Fox will premiere a 15 minute preview on as many IMAX and IMAX 3D screens as they can. The icing on the cake is that this 15 minute preview will be free. The concept is that Cameron wants to give the general public the same sort of preview experience that the Comic-Con audience received. That day will also see the premiere of the first full Avatar trailer in general theaters. You can read about what Cameron revealed of Avatar over at IGN Movies.
Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way and Warner Bros are moving forward with plans to revive The Twilight Zone as a new feature film, to be written by Rand Ravich, writer/director of 1999’s The Astronaut’s Wife and creator of the NBC detective show Life. The Twilight Zone got its start, of course, as a classic science fiction anthology TV show in 1959, produced and hosted by Rod Serling, which was followed by two more TV series in 1985 and 2002. In 1983, four of Hollywood’s hottest directors (Steven Spielberg, John Landis, Joe Dante and George Miller) got together to make an anthology feature film (also a WB release), which is now perhaps most famous for a helicopter accident which caused the death of actor Vic Morrow. What DiCaprio’s Twilight Zone movie will be is not yet known, but the two most likely choices seem to be either another set of stories, or perhaps one single story adapting one of the many classic episodes from the original series. It’s not yet known if DiCaprio’s involvement as producer might also mean that he would star in the movie.
Sony Pictures is close to finalizing a $50 million deal to produce a theatrical Michael Jackson concert movie using the 80 hours of rehearsal footage shot in the days just before the pop star’s June 25th, 2009 death. Although several studios, including Paramount, Fox, and Universal negotiated for the rights to this concert movie, Sony was always perceived as having the inside advantage since most of Michael Jackson’s music is also published by Sony’s music division. Kenny Ortega (Newsies, the High School Musical franchise), who filmed the rehearsal footage, is expected to direct this movie version and is reportedly already at work on compiling the footage into something Sony could release by the end of 2009. Ortega has the time this year to work on this Michael Jackson project, as his next film, the remake of Footloose, doesn’t start filming until March of 2010. The feature is expected to include three new music videos, including an alternative version of “Thriller,” which were intended to play in 3D at the concerts, although it is unclear if 3D will be used in the theatrical release of the movie.
The family of legendary martial artist and actor Bruce Lee have announced plans to bring his life to film not as just one film, but as a trilogy of biopics. The first film, Bruce Lee, will start filming in China in October, on a budget of $7 million, with Tony Leung Ka-Fai already cast as Lee’s father, although a director and all other cast (including Lee) have yet to be hired. Bruce Lee is scheduled for release on November 27, 2010, which will be the 70th anniversary of Lee’s birth; that date, however, may not necessarily apply to the United States, since the movie does not yet have a distributor here. There have been a few Bruce Lee biopics already, including 1993’s Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, starring Jason Scott Lee (no relation). Acclaimed Chinese director Zhang Yimou (who is currently filming the Chinese remake of Blood Simple) has also expressed interest in making a Bruce Lee biopic (perhaps the family will recruit him?).
Acclaimed Canadian director David Cronenberg (Scanners, Videodrome, Eastern Promises) has signed on to helm an adaptation of Don DeLillo’s 2003 novel, Cosmopolis. The premise of Cosmopolis sounds bizarre, and it promises potentially to be a return to the style of some of Cronenberg’s earlier films, albeit perhaps without some of the grosser elements. Cosmopolis is the story of a 28-year-old billionaire’s journey across Manhattan in his tech-heavy limousine as he attempts to get a new haircut, but spends the day in a series of entanglements, including traffic jams caused by a presidential visit, a funeral procession for a rap star, and a full scale riot. Meanwhile, the billionaire is also stalked by two men, has a series of chance encounters with his wife, and sees his fortune dwindling after he bet against the yen in the foreign markets. Cosmopolis, which has not yet been cast, will be a French-Canadian coproduction and will film in New York City and Toronto in 2010.
This week saw an unusual flurry of news items that all have ties to the Saw horror franchise. First up is Saw VII, which is gearing up for production even as Saw VI awaits its expected annual release this coming October. David Hackl, the production designer of II, III and IV, and the director of Saw V, will return to direct VII as well, from a script by Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton, the writers of IV, V and VI, the three Feast movies and next weekend’s The Collector. Plot details are unknown, but I’m guessing it will probably involve torture. Filming of Saw VII starts in January, 2010. Darren Lynn Bousman, who directed Saw II, Saw III, Saw IV and Repo! The Genetic Opera, has signed to write and direct a horror film called Abattoir, which will also be adapted as a graphic novel. Abattoir (French for “slaughterhouse”) is the story of a real estate agent who must clean up a mansion following a bloody massacre there; he encounters a strange old man who draws him into a dangerous “web of shadows, murders and massacres.” Finally, there is James Wan, who directed the first Saw and 2007’s Death Sentence. Wan has signed on to cowrite and direct the long-awaited adaptation of the Castlevania video game series, about a vampire hunter’s attempts to bring down Dracula and his undead hordes. That, in a nutshell, is a lot of Saw news for one week.
Producer Mike Fleiss (Hostel, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, Poseidon) has set up a new production company called Next Films, and the first announced project is a new horror movie franchise called Black Sabbath. At first glance, one might suspect this to be a remake of the 1963 Italian horror film, but Black Sabbath will actually be a new concept inspired by the groundbreaking heavy metal band of the same name; the movie itself, however, will have no relation to the bad outside of its title. In addition to approving the use of the band’s name, Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi is also scoring the movie. While Iommi currently owns the trademark of the Black Sabbath name, lead singer Ozzy Osbourne recently filed suit for 50% of the rights. Anyway, no other details are known about Black Sabbath, and apparently the project does not yet have a writer. So, what do you think a Black Sabbath horror movie should be about?
This week’s rotten idea does not go to a newly announced movie, this column’s specialty, but to a bit of casting news: Nicolas Cage is in talks to play the “gangster villain” in next summer’s comedic adaptation of The Green Hornet, starring Seth Rogan, with Cameron Diaz in talks to play his reporter romantic interest. Now, I should note that this particular “rotten idea” is not entirely about the movie, for which I hold out some promise since it’s being directed by Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Be Kind Rewind). Nope, I’m particularly just concerned with the career of Nicolas Cage, who once showed a lot of promise, but in recent years has mostly shown an interest in making a series of bizarre acting choices in flawed movies like Ghost Rider and The Wicker Man. In other words, he’s one or two movies away from becoming John Travolta. The two movies Cage currently has in the can and heading towards release are Season of the Witch, where he plays a medieval knight, and Disney’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, where he plays a wizard. Now, it’s possible that his Green Hornet villain role will be awesome, but I just have this sneaking suspicion that it won’t be. And since Nicolas Cage was once one of my favorite actors (back in the Leaving Las Vegas days), that makes this casting choice the Rotten Idea of the Week.