This week’s Ketchup includes news of a new live action Pinocchio, adaptations of the musicals Jersey Boys and Into the Woods, and new movies for George Clooney, Robert Downey Jr, James Franco and Kate Winslet.
This Week’s Top Story
TIM BURTON MAY REMAKE PINOCCHIO WITHOUT JOHNNY DEPP
With this year’s Dark Shadows being the fifth film in a row that director Tim Burton has made with his frequent star Johnny Depp, it might seem impossible to remember a time when most of Burton’s films didn’t feature Depp at all. Perhaps Burton is getting nostalgic, because the director is now considering an actor for one of his future movies, and his name doesn’t rhyme with schlepp. Burton is currently negotiating with Warner Bros to direct their planned adaptation of the Italian children’s book Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi. It is Robert Downey Jr. that Tim Burton hopes the studio can sign to star as the woodcarver Geppetto. This newest adaptation of the classic tale about the wooden puppet who wanted to be a real boy was written by Bryan Fuller, the creator of the TV show Pushing Daisies. Tim Burton is also eyeing other projects as his next, such as Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (at 20th Century Fox), but Pinocchio has a good chance of becoming his next if Robert Downey Jr. signs on. One fairy tale adaptation that Tim Burton is no longer going to be directing is Walt Disney Pictures’ Maleficent, a reimagining of Sleeping Beauty that focuses on the villain from Disney’s animated version, to be played by Angelina Jolie. With Tim Burton now out, Disney has instead offered the job to two time Academy Award winning art director Robert Stromberg (for Avatar and Alice in Wonderland), for whom Maleficent would be his directorial debut.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 GEORGE CLOONEY RETURNS TO WORLD WAR II WITH THE MONUMENTS MEN
It was revealed last month that George Clooney is developing a Smothers Brothers biopic called Dangerously Funny that he plans on producing and directing. However, it was learned this week that there’s another project based on a non-fiction book that Clooney and producing partner Grant Heslov plan on producing next. The Monuments Men was the name of a 2009 book by Robert Edsel about the 11 civilian art experts that landed at Normandy during World War II on a secret mission to find the great works of art that Adolph Hitler had the Nazis hide throughout Europe. In addition to the war adventure aspects of this true story, The Monuments Men will also have a romance subplot involving Rose Valland, a member of the French Resistance who helped find (and hide) some of the stolen art. Sony Pictures will be distributing The Monuments Men, which George Clooney will be costarring in, and which will be Clooney’s fifth film as director (after Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Good Night and Good Luck, Leatherheads and The Ides of March). The Monuments Men will be George Clooney’s second movie set during World War II, after the 1998 drama The Thin Red Line, in which Clooney had a small supporting role (The Good German was technically set while WWII was still going on in the Pacific, but after the war was over in Germany).
#2 HOLLYWOOD CAN’T TAKE THEIR EYES OFF OF JERSEY BOYS
GK Films (Edge of Darkness, The Town) has hired screenwriter John Logan, whose recent films included Hugo and Rango (also produced by GK Films), to adapt the Tony winning musical play Jersey Boys: The Story of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons. Based on the true story of how four young working class guys became pop stars in the 1950s, Jersey Boys has been eyed as the basis for a potential feature film pretty much since the musical debuted in 2005. Columbia Pictures is also expected to sign onto the adaptation, handling worldwide distribution for the GK Films project. Just like the Broadway musical, this adaptation of Jersey Boys is expected to use several of the quartet’s most famous songs, such as “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You,” “Oh, What a Night,” “Rag Doll,” and “Sherry.”
#3 KATE WINSLET TO INVESTIGATE THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY
Kate Winslet has signed to star in Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of the best selling novel The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. That novel was the first and last written by Mary Ann Shaffer, as it was published posthumously in 2008. Kate Winslet will play British writer Juliet Ashton who, in the months after World War II, receives strange letters from the island of Guernsey describing the events that took place there during German occupation. This will be the second movie that Kate Winslet and Kenneth Branagh make together, following Branagh’s 1996 adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, in which Winslet played Ophelia. Comic book fans will also know this project as the movie that Kenneth Branagh is making instead of directing Thor 2. Filming of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is scheduled to start in March in the United Kingdom.
#4 JAMES FRANCO IS A MYSTERY IN THE GAME
There’s something mildly ironic about the efforts to adapt the 2005 Neil Strauss book The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists into a movie. That book about men obsessed with the “art” of picking up women has itself been passed along all over town, starting with Columbia Pictures, then Spyglass, then Lionsgate, then Fox Searchlight, and now MGM is the studio to finally move forward with the adaptation. James Franco is now in negotiations to star in The Game as “Mystery,” one of the “sargers” who all lived together in a mansion on the Sunset Strip (as seen in the VH1 reality show The Pickup Artist). The Game was written and will be directed by the team of Brian Koppelman and David Levien, whose previous two films as directors were Knockaround Knockaround Guys and 2009’s Solitary Man. Guys and 2009’s Solitary Man. Coincidentally, that second film starred Michael Douglas, who also was the star of the David Fincher film called… The Game. This is one of the week’s Fresh Developments mostly because of the impressive RT Tomatometer scores for the previous films written by Koppelman and Levien.
#5 PARTY DOWN HEADS UP TO THE BIG SCREEN
Party Down was a comedy TV series about a Hollywood catering company that aired on the Starz channel for 20 episodes from 2009 to 2010. Low ratings, as well as the departure of costars Jane Lynch and Adam Scott to star in Glee and Parks and Recreation, respectively, were all partially credited with the series’ end. Party Down was created by Rob Thomas, who also created Veronica Mars, and just like that show (though those plans eventually fell apart), there is now talk of a Party Down movie. This week, actress Megan Mullally confirmed that a Party Down movie is indeed being written, with plans for most of the show’s cast to reunite later this year. What is unclear is whether or not this Party Down movie will indeed get a theatrical release, or whether it will just premiere on Starz or go otherwise drect-to-video.
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#4 DISNEY GOES INTO THE WOODS
Considering Hollywood’s current love affair with fairy tales (and the TV success of Once Upon a Time on ABC, owned by Disney), this story shouldn’t really surprise anyone. Walt Disney Pictures has hired director Rob Marshall (Nine, Memoirs of a Geisha) to adapt the 1987 Stephen Sondheim Broadway musical Into the Woods for the big screen. That play was very much ahead of its time, as its plot combined characters from various fairy tales such as Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel. It also makes a lot of sense that it would be Disney that adapts that musical into a movie. However, Into the Woods is one of the week’s Rotten Ideas not for any of those reasons, but because of the RT Tomatometer scores for the last three movies directed by Rob Marshall, all three of which were Rotten, with only his first film, Chicago, receiving a Fresh score.
#3 THE CHRONICLES OF STARBUCK: KATEE SACKHOFF JOINS RIDDICK
After years in development hell, Vin Diesel’s third movie starring his science fiction persona, Riddick, is finally filming in Montreal, and so this week, two of Diesel’s costars were announced. First up was Katee Sackhoff, who most fans will know as Starbuck from the 2000s reboot of Battlestar Galactica (she was the blonde with the really big… cigars). And then there is Spanish actor Jordi Molla (who was also recently mentioned as being up for the villain role in the Star Trek sequel, before it went to Benedict Cumberbatch). Both Katee Sackhoff and Jordi Molla will be playing mercenaries, with Sackhoff described as “Nordic” and Molla’s character Santa being described as the leader of a group of mercenaries, but it is unclear if that means that Sackhoff is with Molla’s group or not. In Riddick, Vin Diesel’s character will find himself left for dead on a dangerous planet where he is soon found by bounty hunters, but what they don’t know is that something has happened on the planet that makes Riddick more dangerous than ever. Riddick is being directed by David Twohy, who in addition to the first two movies (Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick) also directed Timescape, The Arrival, Below and A Perfect Getaway. The casting of Riddick is one of the week’s Rotten Ideas because of the “Rotten” scores that the two previous movies received on the RT Tomatometer (55% for Pitch Black and 29% for The Chronicles of Riddick).
#2 HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS GETS LOST IN THE WOODS FOR 10 MONTHS
Normally, the Weekly Ketchup focuses on movie development news, which mostly involves movies before they start filming. That’s because most news involving films before they come out actually happens before cameras roll. Every once in a while, though, that’s not the case, such as with this story. Paramount Pictures has decided to yank Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters from its former release date of March 2, 2012 and shift the film back, way back, all the way until January 11, 2013. As the title suggests, this 3D supernatural action thriller depicts the Brothers Grimm characters as adults who survived the incident at the Gingerbread House, and now travel around Europe, hunting down evil witches. Tommy Wirkola (Dead Snow) directed Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, and Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton played the title characters. And that right there might just be why Paramount decided to wait another 10 months before releasing the film (besides the obvious notion that January is often when troubled movies are released). Someone at Paramount may have made the decision that a movie starring Jeremy Renner might do better at the box office after the release of The Avengers and The Bourne Legacy this year than it would if Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters was released a couple of months before those movies. Or maybe it really just is an awful movie. Either way, this move feels like a Rotten Idea.
#1 THIS WEEK IN FOUND FOOTAGE MOVIES: TWO MORE FROM THE DIRECTOR OF THE DEVIL INSIDE
Although Hollywood’s love affair with remakes and fairy tales gets more press, a continuing emerging trend is the recent success of cheaply made “found footage” horror films like Paranormal Activity 3 and this past weekend’s The Devil Inside, all produced and distributed by Paramount Pictures. William Brent Bell, the cowriter and director of The Devil Inside, is not resting on whatever laurels a $33.7 million opening weekend might be perceived as. In April, Bell is going to Romania to film an untitled found footage horror film that references “another classic horror mythology.” Given that Romania is also where Transylvania is, one has to wonder if Bell is planning on doing a vampire story. That project does not yet have a distributor. Meanwhile, over at Warner Bros, William Brent Bell has sold his pitch for The Vatican, a found footage horror movie that presumably has something to do with the Catholic Church. Finally, the director of The Devil Inside wasn’t the only one making “found footage” deals this week. Steven Quale, who made his fiction debut this year with Final Destination has made a deal with New Line Cinema for Category Six, about a group of high schoolers “documenting” a hurricane superstorm (the current scale only goes to Category Five). The two William Brent Bell found footage movies are this week’s Most Rotten Ideas based mostly on the truly abysmal 6% that The Devil Inside scored on the RT Tomatometer.
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.