This week’s Ketchup features a refreshing number of newly announced films based on original ideas, including the next projects for directors like Kevin Smith (Clerks), Zack Snyder (Watchmen), Alexander Payne (About Schmidt), Jay Roach (Meet the Fockers) and Mark Romanek (One Hour Photo).
With Watchmen in theaters today, and the CGI fantasy animal movie Guardians of Ga’Hoole well under way, director Zack Snyder set his sights on his next live-action project. That project is Sucker Punch, starring Amanda Seyfried (Mamma Mia) as Babydoll, a young woman in the 1950s sent by her stepfather to a mental institution to receive a lobotomy. When there, Babydoll retreats into a dream world, “like Alice in Wonderland with machine guns,” where she sets off adventures in her mind with four other girls to be played by Evan Rachel Wood, Vanessa Hudgens, Abbie Cornish and Emma Stone. The goal is to acquire five objects that will allow Babydoll to escape before she is “deflowered by a vile man.” IGN put the finishing touches on their description of the project by saying that it includes “everything from dragons to B-52s to brothels.” Having seen what Snyder was able to accomplish with Watchmen, it’s exciting to hear that he is following it up with what sounds like a total mind trip movie.
Talking to MTV, Australian director George Miller, whose career includes both creating the Mad Max franchise and family friendly movies like Babe and Happy Feet, revealed where he is expecting to take Mad Max next. Instead of adapting the long-in-development fourth Mad Max movie as a live-action feature starring Mel Gibson, the apocalyptic adventure will be an R-rated 3-D anime theatrical release. Saying that he hopes to adapt the Mad Max anime to have a more western (non-Japanese) feel, Miller intimated that the plot would be lifted from the 2003 Mad Max 4 project (which would have starred Mel Gibson) that was eventually shelved.
20th Century Fox has signed director Tom Dey (Shanghai Noon, Failure to Launch) to develop a movie based upon the comic strip character, Marmaduke, a Great Dane whose comedic hijinks have been gracing newspapers since 1954. That, however, is where the information about this project pretty much ends, as it is not known if the movie will be live action, CGI animated, or a combination of both. Fox did have success with the CGI-live-action family friendly hybrids of Alvin and the Chipmunks and Garfield, so it won’t be surprise if that’s how we end up seeing Marmaduke.
Universal has picked up a package movie deal, The Adjustment Bureau (based on The Adjustment Team by Philip K. Dick), that was being shopped around Hollywood last week, with Matt Damon attached to star and screenwriter George Nolfi (Ocean’s Twelve, The Sentinel) expected to make his directorial debut from his own script. The Adjustment Bureau is described as a sci-fi romance about a congressman in love with a ballet dancer who discovers that Earth is one big soundstage controlled by strange outside forces, and Nolfi hopes to start filming by late summer 2009. Here’s hoping that Matt Damon has better luck with starring in a movie based upon a Philip K. Dick story than his buddy Ben Affleck had with Paycheck. The concept of The Adjustment Bureau also brings to mind a mix perhaps of Dark City and The Truman Show. Filming is scheduled to start in September 2009.
Kevin Smith has signed with Warner Bros to make his second movie with a big Hollywood studio (after Mallrats with Universal) called A Couple of Cops. Curiously, the project has already had a compromise, with the title being changed from A Couple of Dicks (it’s about detectives). On his latest spoken word DVD, Kevin Smith talked about Bruce Willis’ interest in working with him as director after Smith had a supporting role as an actor in Live Free or Die Hard, but opined that he had no idea how anything he would ever write would appeal to Willis as something he would want to star in. A Couple of Cops, which Smith did not write, is apparently the project they agreed upon, with Tracy Morgan co-starring as well. Before it came to Warner Bros, James Gandolfini and Robin Williams were at one point attached to star. A Couple of Cops is about two detectives who track down a stolen baseball card, rescue a beautiful Mexican woman and have encounters with gangsters and laundered money. Warner Bros has scheduled A Couple of Cops for a release in January, 2010.
Reese Witherspoon, Paul Giamatti and Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat) are committed (but not yet signed) to star in Downsizing, the latest comedy from director Alexander Payne, who both Witherspoon (Election) and Giamatti (Sideways) have worked with before. The term “downsizing” usually refers to what companies call laying off employees, and the movie is indeed about people experiencing economic hard times, but the twist to the title is that Giamatti plays a man whose solution to his money problems is to actually seek out some means of having themselves miniaturized so that their cost of living is more affordable. Cohen will play a tiny person from overseas. Payne is still working on the script with frequent collaborator Jim Taylor. Although Payne has a first look deal at Fox Searchlight, because of the special effects required for Downsizing, the budget may force the movie to end up at a different studio.
Steve Carell lined up two new movies this week. First up is Dinner for Schmucks, a long-in-development comedy that will be Austin Powers director Jay Roach’s first project since 2004’s Meet the Fockers (with news of that series’ third movie, Little Fockers is now no longer on his slate). Sacha Baron Cohen had long been attached to star, but now Steve Carell and Paul Rudd will be starring instead. Co-produced by Paramount, DreamWorks and Spyglass, Dinner for Schmucks (a remake of the French comedy, Les Diner des Cons, AKA The Dinner Game) is about a weekly dinner in which a group of friends are challenged to bring people they consider “idiots” as guests. Carell’s other new comedy this week is Hi-T, a Warner Bros comedy written by Kim Barker (co-writer of License to Wed) about a man who experiences unpredictable mood swings after an injury forces him to get testosterone injections.
Keira Knightley, Andrew Garfield and Carey Mulligan have signed with Fox Searchlight to star in Never Let Me Go, a sci-fi story based upon a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro (The Remains of the Day) about three childhood friends living in a dystopian future England who discover that they were cloned for “cold, tragic reasons” (i.e. organ donors). Time magazine named Never Let Me Go as one of the top 100 English language novels from 1923 to 2005. Mark Romanek (One Hour Photo) is directing from a script by frequent Danny Boyle collaborator Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Sunshine). Filming starts in April in London and Norfolk, England.
Back in Mickey Rourke’s 1980s glory days, two of his higher profile movies were the sexy Body Heat and 9 1/2 Weeks, and one of his new post-Wrestler movies appears to be returning him to similar territory. 11 Minutes, which also stars Alice Braga and Vincent Cassel, is an adaptation of a novel by Paulo Coehlo about a young stripper at a high-end club, who discovers the exciting world of S&M. Rourke will play the club’s owner, which is a considerable step up from the cheap strip club-loving guy he played in The Wrestler. Hany Abu-Assad (2005’s Paradise Now) is directing, and filming is scheduled to start on June 1st in Brazil and Geneva, Switzerland.
Maria Bello, Samuel L. Jackson and Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) have signed to star in an independent drama with a most provocative title: Rape: A Love Story. Rape is about a woman (Bello) who is brutally gang raped in front of her daughter (Breslin), is then stalked by her rapists, and seeks protection from a cop (Jackson). Harold Becker (Sea of Love, Domestic Disturbance) is directing from a script by TV writer John Mankiewicz (House), based upon a novella by Joyce Carol Oates. Filming is scheduled to start in June 2009.
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 and Greg also blogs about the TV show Lost, at TwoLosties.Blogspot.com. Also, last week’s Weekly Ketchup didn’t get published as usual, but you can read it here.