After a slow post-Comic Con week, this week’s Ketchup sees Hollywood getting back into full swing, with news for big superhero movies like Thor 2 and Man of Steel, and a laundry list of casting announcements for stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert DeNiro, Chuck Norris (yes, really), Brendan Fraser and Reese Witherspoon. Also included in the mix are The Expendables 2, a remake of Short Circuit, and at least three CGI animated family films. This week also has the rare distinction of having six “Rotten Idea” stories out of ten, giving Rotten-ness in Hollywood an unwanted plurality.
This Week’s Top Story
WILL THOR 2 BE ABOUT A GAME OF THRONES?
One of the first things movie fans knew about Marvel and Disney’s plans for a sequel to Thor was that Kenneth Branagh would not be returning as director. This week, we learned that the job looks likely to go to director Brian Kirk, who has mostly worked in television, directing episodes of shows like Dexter, The Tudors, Boardwalk Empire, and most interestingly, episodes 3, 4 and 5 of the first season of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Since both are fantasy adaptations set in worlds of political intrigue, it’s easy to see the through line that leads Brian Kirk from directing Game of Thrones to directing the Thor sequel. Not much else is yet known about Thor 2, except that it is described as featuring “a large cast of Asgardians and creatures in the Norse mythology-set world,” which suggests that perhaps Thor 2 will be set more in Asgard and Midgard than the original film was. Walt Disney Pictures has already scheduled Thor 2 for a release date of July 26, 2013. Thor 2 wasn’t the only Marvel character to attract online buzz this week, however, as the TwitchFilm.com site this week reported on two separate Marvel projects: Doctor Strange and Guardians of the Galaxy. There wasn’t much actual news to either story, as both Doctor Strange and Guardians of the Galaxy have been known about since last summer. However, the online movie fan community at large has been acting like it’s “news,” and so these stories get mentioned here too.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 THE NEW PERRY WHITE SAYS: DO YOU REALLY THINK THAT’S AIR YOU’RE FLYING THROUGH?
Much of 2011 has been filled with casting news for Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, but since Superman has such an extensive supporting cast of characters, we’re not quite done with them yet. Laurence Fishburne has been cast as Perry White, the editor-in-chief of the Daily Planet, the newspaper that Clark Kent works for (though I doubt most people reading this column needed that extra explanation). Jackie Cooper previously played Perry White in the Christopher Reeve Superman movies, and Frank Langella portrayed the editor in Superman Returns. Laurence Fishburne joins a star-studded Man of Steel cast that already includes Henry Cavill (Supes, himself), Amy Adams (Lois Lane), Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as the Kents, Russell Crowe and Julia Ormond as Jor-El and Lara Lor-Van, Michael Shannon and Antje Traue as Kryptonians General Zod and Faora, and Harry Lennix and Christopher Meloni as military officers. This week also gave us the news that post-Superman, Zack Snyder is planning on directing a much smaller movie called The Last Photograph, about two men who are “inspired by a photograph to travel war torn Afghanistan.” Man of Steel has been scheduled by Warner Bros for a release date of June 14, 2013. The first photo of Henry Cavill in the Superman costume was also released online this week, along with our first image of Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle (AKA Catwoman) in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises.
#2 LEONARDO DICAPRIO MAY BELIEVE IN THE CREED OF VIOLENCE
Back before it was called Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino sometimes referred to his upcoming slave era project as “a Southern,” which was his way of saying it would be a Spaghetti Western set in the South. Leonardo DiCaprio will be playing the evil slave owner villain in Django Unchained, and now it looks like he might be involved with another western. Based upon a 2010 novel by Boston Teran, The Creed of Violence is set in the 1910s, and is the story of “a criminal named Rawbone who tries to take a cache of weapons into Mexico as part of the country’s revolution but is caught and then accompanied by a government agent who, it turns out, shares a secret past with him.” Leonardo DiCaprio is reportedly interested in one of the two leads, either Rawbone or the government agent, though it’s not yet known which. The Creed of Violence is set up at Universal Pictures, with Todd Field (Little Children, In the Bedroom) attached to direct from his own screenplay adaptation. Todd Field’s first two films were both intense family dramas, so a western would be a departure.
#3 MCAVOY, BELL, AND CUMMING IMMERSE THEMSELVES IN FILTH
Irvine Welsh is a Scottish novelist and playwright who is probably best known for the novel Trainspotting, which was adapted in 1996 as a film that helped launch the careers of Ewan McGregor, Robert Carlyle and others. The entire “hipster” scene also arguably owes much of their style to that film. This week, while being interviewed about the film Irvine Welsh’s Excstasy (which adapts another Welsh book), Welsh revealed who will be starring in an adaptation of his novel Filth. James McAvoy will play the lead character of a “sex-obsessed, cocaine-addicted, bigoted Scottish police officer who is supposed to be investigating a murder but gets sidetracked by his own peculiarities, worries and hangups ranging from the pranks he pulls on his co-workers to his various sexual conquests.” Jamie Bell will play his partner/sidekick, and Alan Cumming will play his boss. Filth will be directed by Jon S. Baird (2008’s Cass), who also adapted the novel. Filming of Filth is expected to start in Scotland in January, 2012.
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#6 REESE WITHERSPOON WILL SEE HER WISH LIST COME TRUE
Reese Witherspoon has attached herself to star in a Walt Disney Pictures comedy called Wish List. Witherspoon will play a woman who 25 years ago as a little girl made ten wishes on a coin at a wishing well, but the coin got stuck without hitting the bottom. Now, when she’s an adult, the coin finally hits the bottom of the well, and this “ambitious career woman” finds those 10 wishes all coming true at once. Wish List was originally conceived as a project for a male star, but screenwriter Randi Mayem Singer (cowriter of Mrs. Doubtfire, The Tooth Fairy) is now writing the script to fit Reese Witherspoon. Wish List is being produced for Disney by Mark Ciardi and Gordon Gray, whose most recent project was Secretariat, also a Disney movie. Although the premise sounds possibly promising, Wish List is a borderline Rotten Idea because of the very low RT Tomatometer score for The Tooth Fairy. This week, Reese Witherspoon and Matthew McConaughey were also announced as being in talks to star in Mud, the next movie from indie director Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter, Shotgun Stories), about the friendship between a 14-year-old and a fugitive (McConaughey) on the run from the law.
#5 THE PENGUIN CRAZE CONTINUES WITH DISNEY’S TUX
Although the box office results for Mr. Popper’s Penguins may suggest audiences feel differently (or at least they did for that movie), Hollywood continues to have a crush on penguin movies. Penguins in recent years have been featured in March of the Penguins, Farce of the Penguins, Happy Feet, Surf’s Up and the Madagascar movies (which led to the Nickelodeon series The Penguins of Madagascar). The penguin madness is already set to continue in Happy Feet 2 and a spin off movie for The Penguins of Madagascar. Most of these have been family movies, and a studio that has been conspicuously absent from the penguin bandwagon is Walt Disney Pictures. That changed this week as Disney has acquired the movie rights to the Japanese manga novel Tuxedo Gin, which the studio will adapt under the title of just Tux. Tuxedo Gin is the story of a young street fighter who falls into a coma and discovers that he only has enough “karma points” to come back as a penguin, which leads to an adventure of good deeds where he tries to score enough “karma points” so he can return to his body and the girl that he loves. Robert Ben Garant, cowriter of The Pacifier and the Night at the Museum movies has been hired by Disney to adapt Tuxedo Gin. It’s position as yet another CGI penguin movie is what lands Tux a spot as one of the week’s most Rotten Ideas.
#4 ARE CHUCK NORRIS AND JOHN TRAVOLTA EXPENDABLE TOO?
With Simon West (Con Air, The Mechanic) signed to direct, casting of The Expendables 2 appears to be underway, with a quasi-rumor this week about two actors who might be joining the cast for the sequel. In an interview, the CEO of the Bulgarian studios where The Expendables 2 will film said that Chuck Norris and John Travolta are expected to costar with the returning cast. The actors who are expected to return are Sylvester Stallone (obviously), Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Statham and Bruce Willis (though not Jet Li). Sylvester Stallone will not be
writing this sequel, but his story idea is being adapted by Ken Kaufman (The Missing; cowriter of Space Cowboys) and newcomer David Agusto. Lionsgate has already scheduled The Expendables 2 for release on August 17, 2012. This story’s Rotten Idea status mostly comes from the 40% that The Expendables scored on the RT Tomatometer last summer.
#3 NOW YOU SEE ME AND THE BIG WEDDING: TWO MOVIES WITH AMANDA SEYFRIED THAT OTHERWISE HAVE NOTHING IN COMMON
Sometimes, in this writer’s efforts to fit as many movies as possible into ten stories, movies are lumped together on the admittedly flimsiest of pretenses. For this entry, the connection is that Amanda Seyfried (Mamma Mia!, Red Riding Hood) is in both movies. First up is the action thriller Now You See Me, about a team of FBI agents who find themselves engaged in a game of cat and mouse with a “super team” of the world’s greatest illusionists who are pulling off a series of bank heists during their performances. Amanda Seyfried and Mark Ruffalo are in talks to join a cast that already includes Jesse Eisenberg and Melanie Laurent. Louis Leterrier, whose filmography includes The Incredible Hulk, the first two Transporter movies and Clash of the Titans will be helming Now You See Me as well. Jesse Eisenberg also made the news this week for signing on to star in an independent adaptation of the Fyodor Dostoyevsky novella The Double, in which Eisenberg will play a government office worker who believes he has been replaced by an exact copy of himself. That particular item just allowed me to sneak in yet another movie to this story. Going back to Amanda Seyfried, she will also be costarring in the Lionsgate comedy The Big Wedding from director Justin Zackman (The Bucket List). The Big Wedding is truly star studded, as the cast also includes Robert De Niro, Susan Sarandon, Diane Keaton, Katherine Heigl, Robin Williams, Topher Grace and Ben Barnes. In The Big Wedding, Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton play a long divorced couple who have to pretend that they are still happy married at their son’s wedding. The Double sounds promising, but both Now You See Me and The Big Wedding are just questionable enough to land this as one (actually, two) of the week’s Rotten Ideas.
#2 ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH IS NOT THE ONCE PLANNED SNAKE PLISSKEN SEQUEL
The Weinstein Company (AKA Bob and Harvey Weinstein) are best known for their decades of producing the movies of filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith and Robert Rodriguez. However, in recent years, the Weinstein Company has also given us the two Hoodwinked CGI animated fantasy comedies. This week, the Weinsteins announced their next CGI animated family film called , which will be released in 3D. That title is of note to genre fans, because it was also the title of a once-planed third Snake Plissken movie (which has long since been shelved). Escape from Planet Earth will be the feature film directorial debut of Cal Brunker, who has previously worked as a storyboard artist on movies like Despicable Me, 9 and Horton Hears a Who! The voice cast of Escape from Planet Earth will include Brendan Fraser, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jessica Alba, Rob Corddry, James Gandolfini and Craig Robinson. Brendan Fraser will star as a blue-skinned alien astronaut named Scorch Supernova who travels to a notoriously dangerous planet (AKA Earth) in response to an SOS, and once on Earth, he must figure out a way to return home to the planet Baab. Escape from Planet Earth was written by the screenwriting team of Tony Leech and Cory Edwards, who also wrote Hoodwinked! and cowrote the sequel Hoodwinked Too! Hood Vs. Evil. The Weinstein Company will release Escape from Planet Earth sometime in 2012. The connections to the Hoodwinked! movies is what lands Escape from Planet Earth a spot in the Rotten Ideas list.
#1 DECISIONS, DECISIONS: JOHNNY 5 AND THE CHIPMUNKS VS. WALTER THE FARTING DOG
As part of Hollywood’s current love affair with remakes of fan favorites from the 1980s, there’s been talk for a few years now about a possible remake of 1986’s Short Circuit. Steve Guttenberg and Ally Sheedy starred in the original movie about a runaway robot called Johnny 5 created for military use who is befriended and protected by a local woman (Sheedy), and there was also a sequel in 1988. This week, it was revealed that Dimension Films is in negotiations with director Tim Hill (Alvin and the Chipmunks, Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties) to take on their planned remake of Short Circuit. Back in 2009, Steve Carr (Daddy Day Care, Paul Blart: Mall Cop) has been attached to direct the remake, but he has long since left the project. This story doesn’t end with the Short Circuit remake, however. Breaking news came in just as the Weekly Ketchup was about to be turned in. In addition to the Short Circuit remake, that same director Tim Hill is also in talks with Paramount Pictures to adapt a movie called Walter the Farting Dog. Based upon a series of children’s books, the movie is about a dog named Walter who farts. Obviously, this is why Edison invented motion pictures: so that we could have a movie called Walter the Farting Dog. And that’s how Tim Hill landed the very rare double Rotten Idea of the Week. Congratulations?
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.