This Week’s Ketchup brings us potentially good news for fans of Will Smith, Robert Downey Jr, Cameron Diaz and Kristen Stewart, along with news about James Bond, Friday the 13th, the Arthur and Escape From New York remakes and the I Dream of Jeannie movie.
Will Smith has only starred in two sequels, and this week brought fresh news about the continuing plans for third movies in both franchises: Bad Boys III and Men in Black III. First, there was Martin Lawrence, who revealed this week that he’s met with both Smith and director Michael Bay (Transformers, Pearl Harbor) about making a third movie about Miami police detectives Lowrey and Burnett. It’s sort of obvious that if a Bad Boys III movie were to be made, Will Smith would have to be involved, but the news about Michael Bay also returning for a third try is the bigger deal. Bad Boys III is being written for Columbia Pictures by newcomer screenwriter Peter Craig, who wrote and directed a comedy short film called The Climactic Death of Dark Ninja. Will Smith’s other would-be trilogy also got buzz this week with director Barry Sonnenfeld (RV, Wild Wild West) also confirming that he will be returning for his third Men in Black movie, along with a few other details. Sonnenfeld confirmed that not only will Will Smith reprise his role as alien-investigating Agent J, but that Tommy Lee Jones will also return as Agent K. Jones’ involvement had previously seemed questionable, in light of news that Josh Brolin was being considered to play a younger version of Agent K. Finally, Sonnenfeld also mentioned that Men in Black III will be filmed in 3D, continuing the hot new trend. Columbia Pictures is reportedly interested in getting Men in Black III going in time to fill the 2011 Memorial Day weekend spot that opened up when Spider-Man 4 was cancelled in favor of a reboot of the franchise with a new star. All of the films in both Smith franchises, with the exception of the oringinal Men in Black, have been poorly received by critics, which would normally land this news as a “Rotten Idea.” However, both franchises are fan favorites, and it’s always possible that the third time could be a charm. Bad Boys II also benefits from being one of the movies paid loving homage in Hot Fuzz, if that counts for anything.
Following the success of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, there are at least five different projects that are eyeing L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz for a similar revisit. One of them is Oz the Great and Powerful (formerly known as Brick), a Walt Disney prequel that Robert Downey Jr. is reportedly interested in starring in as the Wizard. Disney has a notable director in mind for the project as well: Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition). Mendes’ schedule now appears to be open, considering the news (see down below) that the 23rd James Bond film is indefinitely postponed. Oz the Great and Powerful will be a prequel which tells the story of how the Wizard, a “charlatan who’s part of a traveling circus,” ended up in Oz in the first place. The script was written by Mitchell Kapner, whose most recognizable credit is the 2000 hitman comedy The Whole Nine Yards. The aforementioned other four Oz projects are Universal’s adaptation of the musical Wicked, an animated movie to be directed by John Boorman (Excalibur, Deliverance) and two different projects at Warner Bros (one from the producers of Twilight and the other a dark sequel starring Dorothy’s granddaughter).
Kristen Stewart may have a “bad reputation” with many movie fans because of her continuing involvement with The Twilight Saga, but her performance as Joan Jett in The Runaways is being hailed by many critics as surprisingly convincing. So, like her Shark Boy costar, her latest movie news is getting the benefit of the doubt and is avoiding the “Rotten Idea” tag. The word in Hollywood this week (well, mostly the Internet, but same difference, really) is that Kristen Stewart is being considered to replace Angelina Jolie in Wanted 2. The story started the week as a rumor, but it’s now been confirmed that Kristen Stewart has indeed met with director Timur Bekmambetov about possibly playing a “young ass-kicking assassin in the Fraternity” (in other words, not the same Fox character that Jolie played). Whether the movie will happen is still up in the air, however, but if Stewart does sign on, the project has at least a year to come together anyway. Kristen Stewart does, after all, have the two Breaking Dawn movies yet to film, and giving birth to a lycanthrope-loving psychic half vampire baby might require plenty of recuperation time.
This column has been a bit hard on Taylor Lautner, the star of The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D, whose legions of young female fans (AKA “sharkgirls”) have made him an Internet sensation. One of Lautner’s most rotten of “Rotten Idea” entries was Universal’s Stretch Armstrong, based on the nearly forgotten 1970s-1980s Hasbro action figure toy with elastic arms and legs. However, this week brought news that might just force us to consider what might have been previously unfathomable: Stretch Armstrong could actually be… good? Universal has announced a director and a new screenwriter who suggest something like that could actually happen. Director Rob Letterman (Monsters Vs Aliens, Shark Tale) has signed on, and Nicholas Stoller (Get Him to the Greek; director of Forgetting Sarah Marshall) will be doing a rewrite of the script. This isn’t the first time that Letterman and Stoller have worked together, as Stoller also cowrote Gulliver’s Travels, the 2010 Jack Black fantasy comedy that marks Letterman’s live action debut.
20th Century Fox has acquired the rights to the Jane Heller novel An Ex to Grind, with Cameron Diaz and Benicio Del Toro attached to star. The romantic comedy will be about an ex-athlete (Del Toro) who supported his waitress wife’s (Diaz) dreams. When the now successful wife wants to divorce him because he’s become a couch potato in retirement, he files for alimony to maintain the lifestyle he’s been accustomed to, leading her to find a new wife for him. There’s no director attached to the project yet, but this one escapes being a “rotten idea” because of its stars. First, Cameron Diaz has shown that she really can shine in comedies (see: There’s Something About Mary and the Charlie’s Angels movies, of which she was the funniest star, arguably). Even more intriguing is the idea of Benicio Del Toro expanding into the comedy genre. He’s long been attached to play Moe in the Farrelly Brothers’ reboot of The Three Stooges, but with that project apparently delayed for now, An Ex to Grind might just be the movie in which he makes his comedic semi-debut instead. Del Toro has had comedic roles in the past (notably Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), but this would appear to be his first “mainstream” comedy role since becoming a bigger name star with more dramatic parts.
Hollywood’s fascination with remake fever doesn’t get much more baffling than the remake of Arthur, starring Russell Brand. At issue really is exactly how funny anyone really finds the British comedian, whose first real starring role in a Hollywood movie (Get Him to the Greek) hasn’t come out yet. And yet, Brand still gets starring roles (including the 2011 Easter Bunny movie I Hop). Warner Bros’ Arthur remake is indeed ramping up for production in July in New York, and the first real sign of that came this week. Dame Helen Mirren is in talks to costar as Arthur’s longtime nanny in what is basically a gender switch of the butler character in the original film as played by Sir John Gielgud. Arthur is of course the story of a British alcoholic heir to a massive fortune who falls in love with a working class girl rather than the type of woman that his family approves of. The latest version of the script was rewritten by Peter Baynham, who was one of the cowriters of both Borat and Brüno, which probably gives us an idea of the type of humor Brand’s Arthur is going for. Jason Winer, who is the co-executive producer and director of ABC’s Modern Family will be making his feature film debut directing the Arthur remake for Warner Bros. Although Dame Helen might be able to do something funny playing against her reputation as Arthur’s nanny, this story still gets one of this week’s Rotten Idea slots because Arthur just doesn’t feel like a movie that needs to be remade, and especially not starring Russell Brand. Get Him to the Greek opens just a few weeks before Arthur starts filming, and so it should be interesting to see what becomes of this remake if that movie flops disastrously.
With MGM in continuing financial jeopardy and the recent attempt to sell the studio ending fruitlessly, EON Productions has announced that plans for the 23rd James Bond movie have been “indefinitely postponed.” The project has previously been eyed as a possible 2011/2012 release, with Daniel Craig again reprising his version of James Bond, which made Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace blockbuster hits with audiences worldwide. Daniel Craig is still attached to star, but with the plug pulled, it may now be 2013 before another James Bond movie gets made. This also frees director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition) to move onto other projects (see the above story about Oz the Great and Powerful). This is one of the week’s Rotten Ideas because this latest reboot of the Bond franchise has been exactly what the character needed for the 21st century, and it’s our loss that we’re not going to get a third one anytime soon. Another reboot sequel that got bad news this week is Friday the 13th Part 2. The 2009 reboot opened to an astonishing $43 million opening weekend, so it is surprising that producer Brad Fuller says the sequel is now “dead – not happening.” New Line Cinema and Warner Bros had previously been aiming for an August 13, 2010 release for Friday the 13th Part 2. This news isn’t quite as “rotten” as the news of James Bond 23 being postponed, but it’s still surprising and newsworthy.
Hollywood has had a fascination with adapting old TV shows into movies since the late 1980s, and the results have been mostly negative. Some of the oldest projects in development are based upon 1960s sitcoms, like I Dream of Jeannie, the story of a male astronaut who keeps a sexy magical female slave who calls him “Master” in a bottle in his apartment. Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman starred in the original series, which aired on NBC from 1965 to 1970. Columbia Pictures has had I Dream of Jeannie in development since the 1990s, and are still moving ahead with it even years after the box office disaster ($63 million domestic after a budget of $85 million) that was their 2005 adaptation of the similiarly themed Bewitched. The latest writer to try modernizing I Dream of Jeannie is Sheila Callaghan, an intellectual New York playwright who wrote two episodes of Showtime’s The United States of Tara. Over the years, the people (formerly) involved with I Dream of Jeannie have included Lindsay Lohan and director Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham). The hiring of a non-comedic screenwriter with some literary cred (Callaghan adapted James Joyce’s Ulysses) is an interesting move, but I Dream of Jeannie is still one of this week’s Rotten Ideas, just based on the fact that the time for that movie, if there ever was one, seems way, way in the past.
Bestselling novels are a natural source for narrative movies. Best selling self help books, however, since they have no actual story or characters, wouldn’t seem to be quite as wise an idea. That’s not stopping Summit Entertainment, as they have acquired the TV and film rights this week to John Gray’s Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus franchise of books. Since the first book’s publication in 1992, relationship counselor John Gray has written over a dozen Mars/Venus books, all of which approach relationships based on the idea that men and women have very different personalities. John Gray has also been a frequent, predictable guest for shows like The Oprah Winfrey Show for nearly twenty years now. Summit hasn’t yet revealed their film plans for Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus yet, but it is expected that it will take the form of “high-concept ensemble comedy along the lines of the hit 2009 release He’s Just Not That Into You. This is one of this week’s Rotten Ideas because it’s yet another example of Hollywood attempting to build an entire movie around a property with a catchy title and a large audience that otherwise doesn’t have anything that would make instant sense as a movie with an actual story. Yes, there are stereotypes about how men and women can be different, but basically, a project like this is not far removed from being the adult equivalent of a movie based on a board game.
Despite John Carpenter’s Escape From New York remaining one of the director’s best movies, and one that still holds up as a highly recommended futuristic action movie, New Line Cinema is still continuing with their plans for an unnecessary remake. This week, the studio started talks with director Breck Eisner (Sahara, The Crazies) about taking on the project. At one point, Gerard Butler was attached to star as the new Snake Plissken, the bad ass renegade bank robber who is forced to rescue the president when his plane crashes in a future Manhattan that has been turned into a massive penal colony. Butler eventually dropped out of the project (smart, Gerard!), but New Line’s still pursuing the remake, having hired several screenwriters to work on it. Breck Eisner is very into remakes, as, besides The Crazies, he has also worked on a possible remake of The Creature From the Black Lagoon and is currently developing a remake of Flash Gordon. This is the week’s most Rotten Idea because Escape From New York is simply a classic movie that doesn’t need to be remade at all. Snake Plissken is arguably the best example of Kurt Russell at the height of his career, as it was a character he completely made his own. Any actor who attempts to replicate what Kurt Russell did in Escape From New York is on a fool’s errand.