Weekly Ketchup

Weekly Ketchup: Universal Takes on Asteroids

Plus new projects for Michael Bay and Seth Rogen

by | July 4, 2009 | Comments

This Week’s Ketchup features one of the most bizarre video game adaptation concepts ever announced (Asteroids?), news about Predators and Resident Evil 4, new projects for Seth Rogen and Julianne Moore, a couple of movies based upon interesting sounding books and we take you into the Independence Day weekend with one of the worst ideas for a remake ever, ever, ever announced.


Sometimes, things are called classic because they are just plain old, but rarely, the title is truly earned. Citizen Kane and Casablanca are classic movies, for example, while I Accuse My Parents is just plain old. One of the video games that truly earns the title of “classic” is Atari’s 1979 hit, Asteroids. Asteroids was sublimely simple, with the player controlling a spaceship in a field of colliding rocks, and visually stunning for the time, thanks to its line-based “vector” graphics, with an “easy to learn, difficult to master” gameplay that was sort of like outer space billiards. There was no story to Asteroids, but it didn’t need one, as all you needed to know was that those rocks made you die. This week, however, Atari sent the idea of an Asteroids movie out for a Hollywood bidding war, and so Universal Pictures beat three other studios for the rights. Universal is sort of becoming the home of movies based on concepts that have no inherent plot, since they are also developing all those movies based on board games like Battleship and Candyland. The job of turning Asteroids into a 90+ minute movie has been handed to Matt Lopez, cowriter of Bedtime Stories, Race to Witch Mountain and the upcoming The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Lopez’s background seems to be particularly family friendly, so one has to wonder if this means Universal intends Asteroids to be more of a kids movie than say, the gritty, violent science fiction tale of one man, one ship and a crapload of giant rocks.


Harry Knowles of Ain’t It Cool News scored an interview this week with Robert Rodriguez about his producing duties on the “re-inventing” project that is Predators. Confirmed in the piece is that the story will be about a group of people stranded on a planet full of Predators, and that production of the 20th Century Fox movie will start this fall, 2009 in Austin, Texas. The biggest revelation, however, is that the director of Predators will be Nimrod Antal (Vacancy, Kontroll), whose next film is this December’s heist movie, Armored. Although that means Antal now has three movies under his belt, what all three films appear to have in common is an emphasis on character-based tension, but not so much on the sort of visual spectacle that one might expect from the director of a Predators movie. That could be interpreted as both a good thing (if Predators focuses more on suspense than action), or potentially a bad thing, as we don’t really know if Antal knows how to shoot action scenes. Fox apparently has high hopes for Predators, regardless, as they have pegged the movie for a July 7th, 2010 release date.


Apparently following up on where Resident Evil: Extinction ended, Sony Pictures has quietly scheduled Resident Evil: Afterlife for a September 17, 2010 release date. Paul W.S. Anderson (NOT the There May Be Blood and Boogie Nights guy), who directed the first Resident Evil, and wrote all three previous movies, also wrote Resident Evil: Afterlife, and there is no word yet on who will be directing this fourth movie. Soon after this news broke, Milla Jovovich confirmed in a paparazzi interview that she is looking forward to filming this fourth movie, which will start filming this fall, 2009. As anyone who saw the ending of Resident Evil: Extinction knows, not only will Milla Jovovich be back for the sequel, which is set in Japan, but she will be back in a big way (but saying more than that would be a spoiler). The Resident Evil movies are based upon the popular franchise of Capcom survival horror video games, although since Resident Evil: Extinction, they now sort of exist in their own parallel storyline. The latest game in the series, the Africa-based Resident Evil 5, was released in March, 2009.


As filming continues on the two parts of the final entry in the franchise, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, the film franchise that sprang from the pen of J.K. Rowling is nearly done with its effort to give at least some employment to nearly every living British actor of import. And so, the latest Brit to be able to tag along for the ride is Bill Nighy, who you may remmeber as the rock star in Love, Actually, one of the boss vampires in the Underworld franchise, Davy Jones in the Pirates of the Carribean or Shaun’s stepdad in Shaun of the Dead. What exact role Bill Nighy will be playing hasn’t been 100% officially confirmed yet, but almost all of the online speculation seems to agree that Nighy will most likely be playing Rufus Scrimgeour, the latest Minister of Magic, who is described as looking like an old lion, with bushy eyebrows. Since it’s pretty easy to imagine Bill Nighy playing exactly such a character, that’s probably where the speculation comes from. Another Brit who will be joining the movie franchise in these 7th and 8th movies is Rhys Ifans (Notting Hill, Danny Deckchair), who will be playing Xenophilius, Luna Lovegood’s father. Part I of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows is scheduled for November 19, 2010 and Part II, wrapping up the series, is scheduled for July 15, 2011.


DreamWorks is firming up a deal in the high six figures to preemptively acquire the film rights to an upcoming series of six young adult novels in a series titled I am Number Four, which Transformers and Pearl Harbor director Michael Bay will also produce, and possibly direct. The concept of I am Number Four is that nine teenage aliens escape their planet just before it is destroyed by an alien enemy, and attempt to assimilate themselves into life at an Earth high school, but the lead character soon discovers that he is being hunted by the alien that destroyed his homeworld. A very interesting bit of trivia about the novels is that one of the two writers, who worked under a pseudonym, is one James Frey, who made the news a few years back when his “memoir” A Million Little Pieces was revealed to be highly fictional, leading to a showdown on The Oprah Winfrey Show in which Oprah took Frey sternly to task. One has to wonder now if that means that when Frey writes a book about alien teens living on Earth, if perhaps his “fiction” is in fact based on real events, right? Since Transformers is itself the story of aliens on the run and in battle on Earth, it is easy to see the parallel to I am Number Four, and why Michael Bay may be considering directing it. Personally, I welcome the idea of Michael Bay directing six movies based on this franchise, because that would then potentially mean that would be six movies based on things that I might actually care about that Michael Bay wouldn’t have his hands on.


Drew McWeeney of HitFix.com, AKA Moriarty of AICN, is reporting that one of the movies that Seth Rogen is considering is a road movie called Mother’s Curse, in which he would costar with Barbra Streisand, presumably as his mother. No other plot details were revealed, or who the writer or director might be, with the only other detail being that it is a DreamWorks project. McWeeney speculates that Mother’s Curse could be an opportunity to explore the comedic chemistry between Rogen and Streisand in a way similar to what Albert Brooks and Debbie Reynolds had in Mother, and obviously, to what Streisand and Ben Stiller had in Meet the Fockers. Although she works only sparingly, it would indeed be nice to see “Babs” doing another comedy some day outside the Fockers franchise (it’s likely that she will appear in the next movie, Little Fockers).


Julianne Moore and Annette Bening have been cast to play a lesbian couple in The Kids Are Alright (which takes its title from a song by The Who, and was also the title of a rockumentary about the band). The Kids Are Alright is an independent dramedy from director Lisa Cholodenko (High Art, Laurel Canyon), which she also cowrote with Stuart Blumberg (Keeping the Faith, cowriter of The Girl Next Door). Mia Wasikowska (who will be starring as Alice in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland) and Josh Hutcherson (one of the kids from Journey to the Center of the Earth) will star as a sister and brother who seek out the man who was their sperm donor, played by Mark Ruffalo, which as one would expect, upsets the balance of their family. Cholodenko’s films have been mostly great (I’ll ignore Cavedweller), and so this movie sounds very promising. Filming started on Tuesday, which at the pace independent movies are produced means that it could feasibly be done in time for next January’s Sundance Film Festival, which I would speculate The Kids Are Alright has a very good chance at playing at (High Art won the screenwriting award there, and Laurel Canyon also screened at the festival).


Three producers are teaming up to adapt Havana Nocturne, the New York Times best selling non-fiction book by T.J. English, a tale of the American mobsters, including Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano, who thrived in the 1950s in pre-Castro Cuba. Movie fans will fondly remember that Havana played prominently in the plot of The Godfather Part Two, and another notable (but not particularly good) gambling-based movie set in that era was 1990’s Havana, starring Robert Redford. The three producers involved are Gil Adler (Valkyrie, Constantine), Eric Eisner (Hamlet 2) and Shane McCarthy, who has a biopic about mobster Robert Cooley set up at Paramount. Matt Cirulnick, who cowrote 2002’s Paid in Full and the video game True Crime: New York City, has been hired to adapt English’s book, the full title of which, pretty much describes the plot: Havana Nocturne: How the Mob Owned Cuba and Then Lost It to the Revolution. Producer Eric Eisner said, “We really want to show Havana and Cuba as a character at a time that it’s booming… This is about mobsters who don’t only control a few business but try to control an entire country, and the tension that results when their plans go awry.” The producers hope to film in Cuba, but will most likely have to settle for an alternative Caribbean location like the Dominican Republic.


BBC Films and Origin Pictures have secured the rights to the upcoming suspense thriller novel Ordinary Thunderstorms by William Boyd, which the producers are excited about for its London setting, allowing the British filmmakers to make a “highly compelling” thriller which becomes a chase movie as the lead character races around London locations. Set against the backdrop of a London-based drug testing conspiracy, in Ordinary Thunderstorms, an innocent man is framed for a crime he did not commit and is forced to go on the run. The book’s author, William Boyd, also has a background as a screenwriter (A Good Man in Africa; cowriter of Chaplin), and so he will adapt his own work. Producer David Thompson noted that it’s “very rare to come across a big London-set thriller that is both sophisticated and unpredictable in equal measure.” There’s no word yet on who BBC Films and Origin Pictures will be hiring to direct Ordinary Thunderstorms, and at this early stage, likewise no word on who would star, or when filming might start.


It appears that Unstoppable, the runaway train action thriller that was to star Denzel Washington and Star Trek star Chris Pine, is indeed stoppable, as 20th Century Fox is close to pulling the plug on the project which had been given a greenlight to start production this fall, due to budget concerns. Unstoppable was to have been the fourth collaboration between Denzel Washington and director Tony Scott, following Crimson Tide, Deja Vu and last month’s The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3. Considering that Pelham was also a “train thriller,” one has to speculate that Fox is seeing a parallel between that movie’s budget ($100+ million), its inability to break north of $60 million, and the projected budget of Unstoppable which was in the same range. This news also comes just a week after Sony pulled the plug on Steven Soderbergh’s baseball drama, Moneyball, starring Brad Pitt. In other news of movies being cancelled, beloved visionary director Terry Gilliam also revealed this week that his science fiction project set in the world of computer science, The Zero Theorem, has also been scrapped. Gilliam has a long history of projects being stalled or cancelled, with his retelling of Cervantes’ Don Quixote, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, being the most famous example, as it was shelved in mid-production, as documented in the brilliant documentary Lost in La Mancha. However, the project is now being revived, Gilliam hopes, although who might star in the movie is still up in the air. Although the director has told Johnny Depp, who participated in the first attempt, that the role is still his if he wants it, Gilliam is now saying that it seems likely that he will have to go with another actor. And of course, Terry Gilliam was forced into another situation of having to replace a star following the death of Heath Ledger, leading to the actor being replaced in different parts of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus by Jude Law, Colin Farrell and… Johnny Depp. Long since finished, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus still has not yet found a distributor.


With Hollywood’s fascination with remake and reboot fever continuing with no sign of relief (thank or blame Star Trek), I am starting to resign myself, with a sigh, that if I’m going to go to any movies at all in the future, remakes are just something I will have to get used to, to some degree. However, there are just some movies that absolutely, positively do not need to ever be remade in any form. Definitely in that category is John Landis’ 1981 slightly comedic werewolf horror film, An American Werewolf in London. That movie holds a particular place for me in my movie loving experience. 1982 was the year that my family got a VCR, and An American Werewolf in London was the movie that I rented most repeatedly in that year, watching it ad infinitum as a 11 year old kid, completely infatuated with the movie’s wry writing, comedic timing and fantastic werewolf transformation scenes, thanks to that visionary madman, Rick Baker. I would even speculate that it’s possible that I’ve seen An American Werewolf in London more times than I’ve seen any single Star Wars movie. The movie just works that well. And so, it with no understatement that I can say that I am absolutely mortified to hear that John Landis has sold the rights to remake An American Werewolf in London to Dimension Films, to be developed by Bryan and Sean Furst, who also produced the upcoming post-apocalyptic vampire film, Daybreakers. In 1997, a horrible sequel, An American Werewolf in Paris, was made, but in a way, I would actually welcome much more another sequel, even if it would probably suck, than to see someone trying to replicate that original movie, especially considering that they will probably try to replicate Rick Baker’s work using CGI werewolves. That’s where we are today, when we are actually starting to get nostalgic for sequel fever, rather than seeing yet another favorite movie getting the dreaded remake treatment.

For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS through his MySpace page or via a RT forum message.