This was another extremely busy week for movie news, mostly because of the Toronto International Film Festival, at which movie makers are pressed to come up with lots of quotes about their future plans. So, I had to really narrow things down a bit to come up with just ten stories, and I’m sure if you’re following movie news, you’ll notice some of what I left out (Iron Man 2 and Ghostbusters 3, for example), but I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss covering some really big and/or cool movies that were newly announced this week. Oh, and Duke Nukem.
#1 PHARAOH, THE ASSYRIANS ARE AT THE GATE! AW HELL NAW…
America’s best movie buddy, Will Smith, has a pet project lined up called The Last Pharaoh, in which he will play Taharqa, an Egyptian pharaoh who defended his land from Assyrian invaders in the 7th century BC. The Last Pharaoh is being written by Randall Wallace (Braveheart) for Columbia Pictures, based upon a story idea that Smith has reportedly wanted to see made into a movie for a very long time. This project is the blockbuster equivalent of a Reese’s cup, combining Will Smith’s (amazing) box office record with the (mostly) reliable genre of historical war epics (see: 300, Gladiator, Troy). In similar news that I can’t ignore because I’m such a huge fan of the 1970s BBC miniseries, Relativity Media has acquired the rights to the Robert Graves novel, I, Claudius, with Jim Sheridan (In America) to cowrite and direct. The scope of I, Claudius is extremely broad, covering the reigns of four Roman caesars (Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula and Claudius himself, who narrates it all), and would seem too ambitious for a single film (although it was attempted, and abandoned, back in the 1930s). Both The Last Pharaoh and I, Claudius hold a lot of promise for fans of historical epics.
#2 EVIL DEAD: THE MUSICAL
Producers Don Carmody and Sam Raimi are in talks to bring the stage play, Evil Dead: The Musical, to the big screen in full 3-D glory. Take a minute to absorb that sentence, in all of its awesomeness. The musical version of Raimi’s classic horror/comedy masterpiece has a quirky feel that calls to mind titles like Little Shop of Horrors and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but with, you know… a lot more gore and creepy zombie action, and looks to be an ingenious concept for a big screen version. Check out YouTube for clips from the play, and you’ll see what I mean, I think. The movie will feature “some” of the original cast, which leaves room for Bruce Campbell to star as Ash (one can only hope).
#3 20TH CENTURY FOX’S PLANS TO CONTINUE MAKING MARVEL MOVIES
After a really dreadful summer, 20th Century Fox is looking to the Marvel Comics properties that it has the rights to in hopes of coming up with hits for future years, which include plans for another X-Men movie, a Deadpool movie (spinning off of the character’s inclusion in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, played by Ryan Reynolds) and a new Daredevil movie. No details were given in the piece, but based on things already known, the X-Men movie is likely to focus on young characters (possibly an origin story for the classic original five characters: Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast, Angel and Iceman), and the Daredevil movie is likely to be a reboot, similar to what was recently done with The Incredible Hulk (ie, no Ben Affleck). What’s curiously missing from this story is any mention of X-Men Origins: Magneto, and what isn’t so surprisingly missing is any mention of another Fantastic Four movie, or its at-one-time-planned spin off, Silver Surfer. As for the Daredevil movie, I think this is a pretty good idea, because the character has no lack of great comic stories to draw upon, including several by Sin City/300 creator Frank Miller. If they could get Miller to come aboard to make a Daredevil movie, fans would DROOL.
#4 JOHNNY DEPP TO DO THE CGI VOICEOVER THING IN RANGO
Johnny Depp and Pirates of the Carribean director Gore Verbinski are reteaming on an animated CGI project called Rango for Nickelodeon and Paramount, about a pet (of a curiously unspecified species) who goes on an “adventure to discover its true self”, with Industrial Lights & Magic handling the CGI, which will be using motion-capture so that Depp will be providing the face and expressions of the creature… whatever it is. This will be ILM’s first venture into the field of full animated movies, but the company obviously has a huge history of CGI, so they should be very capable.
#5 INSIDE MAN 2: OUTSIDE MAN?
Universal is moving forward with plans for a sequel to Inside Man, the bank heist thriller that gave director Spike Lee his biggest hit ever, with the director and two of his stars, Denzel Washington and Clive Owen, in talks to return. The new movie, which is expected to be written by Terry George (cowriter of Hotel Rwanda), will feature those two characters in a new story that focuses on a new situation that continues the relationship between Washington’s hostage negotiator and Owen’s bank robber characters. I have to admit that I’ve never gotten around to actually seeing Inside Man, so please don’t spoil me as to why Jodie Foster isn’t mentioned in this story.
#6 LIBERACE: CANDELABRAS, CAPES, THE WHOLE SHEBANG
Hollywood’s decade long infatuation with the concept of a Liberace biopic, about the flamboyant pianist, appears to be coming to fruition with news that director Steven Soderbergh is working with Warner Bros on just such a project, with Richard LaGravenese (The Fisher King) working on the script. Although the trade notes that Liberace will not be Soderbergh’s next project (“or even the one after that”), casting is already underway, with Michael Douglas (who does actually bear a resemblance) to star, and one of Soderbergh’s frequent stars, Matt Damon, in talks to play Scott Thorson, Liberace’s longtime companion. Liberace has to wait in line a bit, as Soderbergh’s always busy slate currently includes his two Che Guevara movies coming out this fall, The Informant with Matt Damon in post-production, and his low-budget prostitute project, The Girlfriend Experience, which is set to be the next film to actually shoot.
#7 BIG STARS TO STARE AT GOATS
George Clooney, in his producer role, is in negotiations with a few big names (Kevin Spacey, Ewan McGregor and Jeff Bridges) to costar with him in The Men Who Stare at Goats, based upon a non-fiction book the U.S. Army’s (reported) efforts in Iraq to utilize soldiers with paranormal ESP abilities. Filming starts early next month, with Clooney collaborator Grant Heslov making his directorial debut from a script by Peter Straughan (How to Lose Friends and Alienate People).
#8 JAMES FRANCO TO HOWL
Beat poet Allen Ginsberg is getting the anecdotal biopic treatment via an independent production called Howl (the name of his most famous poem), focusing on the 1956 obscenity trial following its publication. The movie has an impressive cast, which includes James Franco (starring as Ginsberg), frequent Apatowiverse costar Paul Rudd, Alan Alda as the judge overseeing the case, David Strathairn as the prosecutor and Mary Louise Parker as a witness. What’s missing from the cast are all the famous people and literary peers that Ginsberg knew, but given the limited scope of the story, perhaps they will just be name checked.
#9 BLUE MAN GROUP TO FOLLOW THE SMURFS AND THE WATCHMEN‘S DR. MANHATTAN
Blue Man Group, the long running theatrical trio who wear bright face paint and bang around on stuff and force music out from unusual sources, have firmed up plans to bring their entertaining stylings to 3-D IMAX screens in June, 2010. The movie is being produced by the same person behind the recent Journey to the Center of the Earth (also 3-D), and filming is expected to start in June, 2009.
#10 DUKE NUKEM NEXT AFTER MAX PAYNE?
One of the producers of next month’s Max Payne movie revealed that he has active plans to focus on Duke Nukem next. Popular in the 1990s for mixing first person shooter gameplay with a cocky macho character, Duke Nukem has become more notorious in this decade for the length of time that the latest game, Duke Nukem Forever has taken to be developed (since 1997!). In the same piece, the producer mentions high hopes for a Max Payne sequel if the first one does well.
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