There were a lot of good stories in the Ketchup bottle this week, including a batch of new projects for Vin Diesel, Miley Cyrus, John Favreau, Vince Vaughn, Demi Moore, and Luke Wilson.
#1 XXX: THE RETURN OF XANDER CAGE
Vin Diesel might not have had great luck recently with the critical and box office flop that was Babylon A.D., but all other signs are good for a revival of his career, as he is in effect retaking the starring roles in two franchises that he started, and then starred someone else. First, there is Fast and Furious, coming out next summer (along with other returnees like Paul Walker and Michelle Rodriguez). And now, there is news that Vin Diesel will return to star in the third XXX movie, to be titled XXX: The Return of Xander Cage. Now, it’s true that the XXX Director’s Cut DVD included a short film called The Death of Xander Cage, which killed off the character, to make way for the Ice Cube character in the second movie, but I figure one can just figure that was sort of a deleted scene “alternate reality” thing. Both Diesel and director Rob Cohen are reported as already being signed with Columbia Pictures to return for this third movie, but as yet, there is no screen writer or script. My guess is they haven’t figured out yet what gadgets, extreme sports or exotic locales they’d like Xander Cage to tackle next, either.
#2 ELEMENTARY, MY DEAR… JUDE LAW
In what might be interpreted as an ingenious casting coup, Jude Law is in negotations to join the cast of Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes, to play Dr. John Watson to Robert Downey Jr’s title sleuth. With an American in the starring role, it makes sense to cast someone so completely British as Watson, but Jude Law brings something else to the role, which is a redefinition of the character, who as I think of the past Watsons, always does seem to be interpreted differently each time, from the meek sidekick in Young Sherlock Holmes to the reversal of character roles in Without a Clue, to various film versions where Watson had a more “bumbling sidekick” nature. I can’t imagine Jude Law would be playing anything like the latter, so I’m expecting something of a more cerebral take on the good doctor.
#3 WARNER BROS CONSIDERING SEQUELIZING WATCHMEN
Patrick Wilson is out promoting Lakeshore Terrace this week, and so of course, Watchmen comes up (in which he stars as the second Night Owl), but what he shared with MTV is borderline blasphemous: Warner Bros is considering concocting some sort of Watchmen 2 (!). The problem with this is that Watchmen is a self-contained work that Alan Moore really didn’t follow up, outside of miscellaneous story elements that might not fit in the first movie, or were included in a few role-playing supplements in the 1980s. The only way in which I could have imagined there would be a Watchmen 2, is if they had originally set out to make it as two movies, with the story spread out. If they tell the Watchmen story in the first movie, what story does the second movie have to tell? They’re certainly not going to be able to get Alan Moore, outspoken critic of movie adaptations of his work, to write a new story, so I’ve no idea what they would do. Thankfully, Wilson reports that is the sentiment of Zack Snyder and the crew as well, so hopefully, they will be able to talk the WB money people out of pursuing this horrible, horrible idea.
#4 MILEY CYRUS TO POSSIBLY STAR IN SOMETHING THAT DOESN’T RHYME WITH BANANA?
Disney Pictures has hired extremely successful romantic author Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook, Nights in Rodanthe) to write a script (and a novel to go with it) custom made as a starring vehicle for their Hannah Montana star, Miley Cyrus. No plot details have been revealed yet, except that the movie will be more “adult”, and will include elements of family and romance, and that Cyrus hopes it will be similar to A Walk to Remember, which was also based on a Sparks novel. There’s no word about when filming might start on the movie, but the Nicholas Sparks tie-in novel will be published in the fall of 2009. I feel like I should make a snarky remark about this commercially obvious movie and book deal, but really, Hannah Montana and all that, it’s sort of critic proof, isn’t it? And besides, I kind of loved The Notebook.
#5 DWAYNE JOHNSON’S KID FRIENDLY CAREER CONTINUES WITH DISNEY’S MOVIE HOMAGE TO TOMORROWLAND
I’ve made this remark before, but I’m at this point convinced that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has his sights set firmly on being the 21st century Fred MacMurray: a big lug of a guy who stars in an endless line of Disney and/or kiddie comedies. And so, while preparing to start filming soon on The Tooth Fairy (as a big lug of a guy who joins their ranks, wings and all), Johnson has signed on to star in a Walt Disney Pictures science fiction action project that is to be inspired by (but not necessarily titled) Tomorrowland, yet another of their theme park attractions to have a movie tie-in. The gimmick worked for Pirates of the Carribean, yes, but that example is only convenient if you overlook The Country Bears and Haunted Mansion. Anyway, at the Disney parks, the Tomorrowland area is sort of a thematic chunk of the park where a lot of the actual “rides” are located, with Space Mountain being the largest (I think), and certainly the most famous. My childhood memories of Space Mountain are very fuzzy, and I’m not sure I really remember there being much of a story there, but I’m thinking that the script for this movie by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (Rebound, the upcoming Ghosts of Girlfriends Past) might someday provide the story elements that Tomorrowland might currently be perceived as lacking.
#6 SWINGERS STARS TO REUNITE FOR A COUPLES RETREAT
Swingers stars Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau are reuniting on the big screen once again in Couples Retreat, which will be their sixth movie together after this year’s upcoming Four Christmases, with Jason Bateman (Arrested Development) and Faizon Love (costar with Favreau/Vaughn in 2001’s Made) also costarring. The Universal comedy is about four couples who go on what they expect to be a wild tropical vacation, but discover when they arrive there that marriage therapy is required. Couples Retreat is being directed by Peter Billingsley (making his debut after coproducing several projects with Favreau), from a script by Favreau, with filming scheduled to start in late October in Los Angeles and on location on the remote Pacific island of Bora Bora . It looks like they are announcing the four male leads first, with their respective female leads to be announced at a later date.
#7 BEN AFFLECK: PRINCE OF THIEVES
Following up on the strength of Gone Baby Gone, Warner Bros has hired Ben Affleck to direct, rewrite and star in The Town, a retitled adaptation of the novel Prince of Thieves by Chuck Hogan. Prince of Thieves is about a leader of a bank robbery gang who falls in love with a bank manager of a place they robbed. The production will film in Charleston, MA (where the novel is set as well), a working class suburb of Boston, which Variety notes will help capture a feel similar to where Affleck shot Gone Baby Gone. A reason wasn’t given for the title change, but one has to figure it is probably to avoid confusion with the Kevin Costner Robin Hood movie.
#8 AIRMAN NEXT FOR MONSTER HOUSE TEAM
Gil Kenan (City of Ember) and Robert Zemeckis (Beowulf), who last teamed up as director and producer, respectively, of the 2006 CGI kids movie, Monster House, will next work together on a performance capture CGI adaptation of Airman, the latest fantasy adventure novel from Eion Colfer, the author of the popular Artemis Fowl series. Airman, which seems to me to be trying to bring the young reader audience of Harry Potter-type stuff into the superhero realm, is about a young adventurer (in a fictionalized 19th century) who was born on a hot balloon who must use his scientific wizardry (mostly a hang glider) to save his people from a cruel government. Steampunk is not a genre that has had a lot of success, and similar “retro futuristic” movies have likewise struggled (The Rocketeer and Sky Captain, for example), but I’m still a fan of this type of backwards-forwards sci-fi, so I can’t completely write this off.
#9 DEMI MOORE KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES
Demi Moore and David Duchovny have signed on to star in a “social commentary” dramedy called The Joneses, as the parental units in a fake family of actors that moves into a neighborhood as a bizarre marketing scheme to introduce luxury items into towns around the country. Basically, it sounds like The Truman Show in reverse. Gary Cole (Office Space) will play one of their new neighbors, and Amber Heard (Pineapple Express) costars as the fake daughter. Former Billabong graphic artist Derrick Borte is directing from his own script, with filming scheduled to start on this independent production in mid-October in Atlanta.
#10 WHY YOU THINK THE NET WAS BORN? PORN, PORN, PORN!
Luke Wilson and Giovanni Ribisi have signed on to star in the independent comedy, Middle Men, about one of the first online billing companies devoted exclusively to porn sites, the owner of which finds himself “in the middle of a whirlwind filled with starlets, conmen, Russian mobsters, federal agents and international terrorists, all while trying to hold on to his marriage and family.” The story is most likely fictionalized, but it’s interesting to note that the movie is being produced by one J. Christopher Mallick, who is himself the founder of Paycom, one of those aforementioned early Internet porn billing sites. George Gallo (Double Take, Dysfunktional Family) is directing from a script he cowrote with Andy Weiss (several episodes of Punk’d), and filming is scheduled to start in late October in Phoenix.