As Christmas approaches, you would think Hollywood would be taking a break from big announcements, but that hunch would only be half right. Although there are few huge new movies in this week’s rundown, there was an unusually high amount of news about “little movies.” Included in the mix are sequels for potentially dozens of acclaimed Miramax movies, remakes of Firestarter and Gambit, and new roles for George Clooney, Sacha Baron Cohen and Colin Firth.
Earlier this year, Harvey and Bob Weinstein, founders or Miramax Films, attempted to buy back the company that they had founded from Walt Disney Pictures. Last week, that effort lost out as the rights were instead sold to a company called Filmyard Holdings. The relationship between the Weinsteins and Miramax is not over, however. This week, The Weinstein Company announced plans to partner with the new Miramax Films on theatrical sequels, direct-to-video sequels and TV shows based upon many Miramax movies. At the top of the list are planned sequels for Bad Santa, the poker drama Rounders and the Oscar-winning Shakespeare in Love. Other titles that were also mentioned in the initial announcement were: The Amityville Horror (itself a remake), Bridget Jones’s Diary (which already had a sequel), Kevin Smith’s Clerks (which had a sequel and an animated TV show), Copland (starring Sylvester Stallone), Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk Till Dawn (which already had a direct-to-video sequel and prequel), Shall We Dance? (also a remake) and Doug Liman’s Swingers (which launched the careers of Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn). Miramax and The Weinstein Company are already working together on Scream 4, Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World (both due in 2011) and Scary Movie 5. This latest announcement suggests a much larger focus on “franchising” movies that previously seemed like stand-alone films. One person for whom this was very big news is director Kevin Smith, who was quick to comment about the suggestion that there will be a Clerks 3. Smith said, “Nice to know there’s a home for ‘Clerks III‘ if I ever wanted to make it, but hope it doesn’t become a home for a Clerks-anything if I’m not involved.” Smith also clarified that although Miramax owns the rights to several of his movies, they do not own the characters of Jay and Silent Bob (Wlliam Shakespeare could not be reached for comment about the idea of a Shakespeare in Love Part Deux). The notion of so many beloved Miramax movies getting sequels apparently inspired only by potential box office would have normally made this the week’s Most Rotten Idea, if it wasn’t also the week’s Top Story.”
Larry McMurtry is both a novelist and a screenwriter, and he has been responsible for three movie/TV titles that will assuredly be in his obituary someday: The Last Picture Show, Lonesome Dove and Brokeback Mountain. Larry McMurtry adapted Brokeback Mountain from a short story by Annie Proulx with his screenwriting partner Diana Ossana. McMurtry and Ossana have now announced that they are working together again on adapting two different novels set in the time of the American Wild West. First, there is The Color of Lightning by Paulette Jiles, which 20th Century Fox is producing for Ridley Scott (Alien, Gladiator) to direct someday (Scott is attached to many, many projects, including the upcoming Alien prequel). The Color of Lightning is loosely based on a true story (which was reportedly also the basis for The Searchers) and tells the story of a freed slave who settles in Texas with his family with dreams of starting a freight business. However, Comanche raiders kill his oldest son and kidnap the rest of his family, inspiring the former slave to plot revenge against the Comanches. The other project is at Warner Bros (though also produced by Scott Free) and is an adaptation of Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne. This book also involves the Comanche tribe, but is instead more of a heroic “Braveheart-style epic” biopic. Empire of the Summer Moon tells the true story of Quanah, the last leader of his people, who was the son of a white woman and led his tribe in their final battles against the white man.
The casting of Gravity, the Warner Bros science fiction movie, has been rocky. The female lead was first Angelina Jolie, and then Natalie Portman, and now finally, it is Sandra Bullock. Likewise, the role of the male astronaut who also survives a space station disaster was initially to be played by Robert Downey, Jr and then he also dropped out. Now, that role has gone to George Clooney, who has a long history of working with Warner Bros, including the Ocean’s Eleven movies and Batman & Robin. Gravity will be the next movie for director Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), who also cowrote the script with his son Jonas Cuaron. Cuaron expects to start filming soon, and Gravity will be filmed in 3D.
The Coen Brothers’ remake of True Grit is still a week away from release, but there is already another remake that the acclaimed directors have written (although they won’t be directing). Gambit was a twisty-turny 1966 crime comedy starring Michael Caine as a cat burglar and Shirley MacLaine as a waitress who looks just like the dead wife of a millionaire who owns a priceless statue they are trying to steal. Colin Firth is currently in talks to take on the lead role previously played by Michael Caine. Instead of the Coen Brothers, the Gambit remake will be directed by Michael Hoffman (One Fine Day, The Last Station, Soapdish). Production is expected to start in the summer of 2011 in London and Texas.
Josh Hartnett is attached, and Neve Campbell is in negotiations to star in the drama Singularity about intertwining souls set in two stories hundreds of years apart. Hartnett will play both a 1778 British officer in colonial India and a 2015 archaeologist who falls into a coma, with Neve Campbell playing his 2015 wife, who gets stuck in a sunken ship while trying to retrieve a ring (from 1778, it’s easy to guess). Singularity is the latest movie from director Roland Joffe, whose impressive resume includes The Mission, The Scarlet Letter, The Killing Fields and the not-as-impressive Super Mario Bros. Filming of Singularity is scheduled to start in January at locations in India and Australia.
Sacha Baron Cohen’s next “crazy foreigner loose in America” movie after Borat and Brüno will be The Dictator, which starts filming in early 2011. However, the actor/comedian is already considering another project, in the form of an English language remake of the Spanish film franchise Torrente. Torrente is about a lazy, selfish, rude, drunk, sexist, racist ultra-right-wing cop who “traffics in all manner of shady outrageousness in pursuit of his own brand of justice.” There are already three Spanish Torrente movies, and a fourth will be released soon. Sacha Baron Cohen has reportedly already met several times with New Line Cinema about the remake. The writing team of Alec Berg, Jeff Schaffer and David Mandel are currently working on the script. Those three writers are all former Seinfeld writers, and also worked together on EuroTrip, The Cat in the Hat and Cohen’s next movie, The Dictator. This is one of the week’s Rotten Ideas based mostly on the Tomatometer scores for The Cat in the Hat and EuroTrip (although Seinfeld was certainly a very good show).
Jon Favreau announced this week that he has decided to drop out of directing Iron Man 3 so that he may instead focus on Disney’s The Magic Kingdom, which is expected to do for their theme park what Night at the Museum did for… museums. Favreau’s recent quotes about the future of the Iron Man movies can now be seen as hint-dropping that he was leaving the franchise, as he appeared to no longer really know the answers to the questions. There is no word yet as to who might replace Jon Favreau on Iron Man 3, but gives fans plenty of opportunity to discuss who they think should next take on Tony Stark. Although there’s as much of a chance that the next Iron Man director could be fantastic, this is one of the week’s Rotten Ideas because Marvel Studios is losing the one director who has thus far delivered the best superhero movies for them.
Hollywood is engaged in a major multi-project obsession with movies that will revisit the classic fantasy of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. These projects include (but are not limited to) Universal’s plans to adapt the musical Wicked, Disney’s Oz: The Great and Powerful, to be directed by Sam Raimi and star Robert Downey Jr. and director John Boorman’s plans for an animated version of The Wizard of Oz. That last project now has competition in the form of a stop-motion/CGI hybrid animated movie called Oz Wars. Oz Wars will be directed by Mike Johnson, who was Tim Burton’s codirector on Corpse Bride (which was also stop-motion animation). The company behind Oz Wars is Vanguard Films, which previously has produced movies like Valiant, Happily N’Ever After and Space Chimps. Oz Wars will not be “just for kids,” as it “transforms the Oz narrative into a contemporary, freaky action-packed PG-13 audience pleaser, with Dorothy caught up in a whirlwind of warrior witches, black magic, martial arts and monsters.” Oz Wars was written by Rob Moreland (cowriter of Space Chimps and Happily N’Ever After) and Athena Gam (who is also writing Vanguard’s upcoming Alien Rock Band). Oz Wars may end up being a good movie, but for now it is one of this week’s Rotten Ideas both because of the number of Oz movies and the screenwriters’ credits have low Tomatometer scores.
As Walt Disney Pictures continues development on several movies based on popular (and not so popular) Disney theme park attractions, the studio is now considering a movie based on one that was never built. Back in the 1960s, Walt Disney (the man, not the company) had an idea called “The Museum of the Weird” which would have been next to the Haunted Mansion, and would have included “ghostly organists, magic carts, talking chairs and other surreal exhibits” (as well as a restaurant). However, the Museum of the Weird was never actually built, and some of the ideas were instead incorporated into the the Haunted Mansion itself. Now, actor-turned-budding-screenwriter Ahmet Zappa (who is also working on a Disney script based on the Enchanted Tiki Room) is talking with the studio about adapting The Museum of the Weird into a movie of its own. Zappa’s idea is to adapt the museum first as a movie, and then for Disney to introduce a theme park attraction later on based on the movie. This is one of this week’s Rotten Ideas simply because Disney is starting to sound like they are literally running out of theme park attractions to turn into movies.
Although many of them are still in development, it’s getting harder and harder to think of a 1980s science fiction movie that hasn’t either already been remade, or is in some stage of development as a remake. This week, that list got even shorter as Universal Pictures and Dino De Laurentiis (he may have died recently, but his company continues on) announced plans for a remake of 1984’s Firestarter. That original movie was an adaptation of a 1980 novel by Stephen King and told the story of a little girl (played by a then 8-year-old Drew Barrymore) with pyrokinesis (starting fires with your mind) who is kept hostage at a secret government facility. Drew Barrymore was also joined by an impressive cast of grown ups on Firestarter which included George C. Scott, Art Carney, Louise Fletcher, Martin Sheen, and as her parents, David Keith and Heather Locklear. Firestarter is a great overlooked sci-fi drama exactly because Drew Barrymore was credible as a little girl with a terrible and destructive “gift” who was also scared and extremely vulnerable. Universal is developing this remake to take advantage of “recent visual effects advances” and so that the “the main character [will] be reinvented with a little more edge.” Right, because an 8-year-old with the ability to start massive explosions is not “edgy” enough. Actually, the very reason Firestarter worked was that Barrymore’s “Charlie” was not “edgy.” The studio also hopes that the Firestarter remake will lead to a new franchise that “can be extended in a new and exciting direction.” The idea of a Firestarter remake is easily this week’s Most Rotten Idea mainly because Firestarter is perfect exactly the way it is. The movie is not at all dated, and is highly recommended to any fans of the genre. Basically, Firestarter was the first X-Men movie some 15 years before an actual Marvel adaptation got made.