WOLVERINE: SNIKT, BUB, SNIKT!
Filming of the 4th X-Men movie, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, starring Hugh Jackman, is well underway down in New Zealand, pretending to be Japan and Canada (which is funny, considering how often Canada pretends to be other places; this time Canada doesn’t even get to play itself), and the first official image was released this week. Logan’s secret past and adventures will be featured this time around, with various X-related characters expected to show up, though most of them are being kept under wraps for now, except Sabretooth, who we can expect to look a lot different than the Tyler Mane version in X-Men. The plot is being kept under relative wraps, but judging from this image, Wolverine’s time in Japan (a very central part of the character’s history in the comics) will be covered, which is good news. I love it when Wolverine fights ninjas. Expect your next dose of mutant mayhem in early May, 2009 roughly around the same time as the CGI adaptation of G-Force (AKA Gatchaman) and J.J. Abrams‘ revisualized Star Trek (which got bumped back several months this week).
JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE BIG SEVEN MINUS TWO
In the various retcons of the last 20 years, DC Comics has rewritten the origins of their premiere team a few times, mostly around the issue of whether or not DC’s biggest guns (Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman) were or weren’t founding members. This usually had to do with re-jiggered timeframes which left the heroes too young or inexperienced (or whatever) to be the founders, and it also served to prop up the profiles of characters like Green Arrow and Black Canary. Well, the movie version appears to be following this pattern, for possibly different reasons, as Moviehole.net reports this week that as the movie is being recrafted (and pushed back to a 2010 filming start), Batman and Superman are being written out of the team. If this report/rumor holds true, Superman will be “dead” (note: that’s comic book death, about as binding as the staples in cheap old comix) and Batman will have been recently kicked out for being a very, very bad Batman (it’s happened in the comics, usually it seems just because he’s kind of grumpy). Instead, the focus will be on characters like Green Arrow, Green Lantern, the Flash and other characters who don’t have their own movie properties yet. I think it’s fairly obvious that one reason for this change is so Warner Bros won’t have to deal with the logistics of two actors playing two of their bigger properties at the same time. As more of a fan of DC’s “B Team” characters than, say, Superman, I’m okay with their time in the spotlight. Common as Green Lantern, well, don’t get me started. (GL = HJ, FTW, IMO; if you know what means, you just might be a nerd. Yay nerds!)
YOU HAVE LANDED ON SUNSET BOULEVARD. PLEASE PAY $80 MILLION RENT
There are odd movie concepts, and then there are BIZARRE movie concepts, and if you’re really lucky, they’re so bizarre, they’re kind of awesome. Friends, I present to you, Monopoly, to be directed by Ridley Scott (Alien, Gladiator), possibly after his next project, the revisualization of the Robin Hood legend, Nottingham, from the sheriff’s perspective (played by Russell Crowe). It appears the project is still in the script development stage, but Scott says that his plans are for it to be a comedy about how money changes people (particularly relatives). In a weird way, I hope this movie preseves a lot of the imagery of the game, like particular streets having the same colored signs, all the houses and hotels being green or red, and people wearing black and white striped outfits when they get sent to jail. Supposedly, Kirsten Dunst and Scarlett Johansson are on a short list of stars that are being considered to star. I’d like to humbly suggest Wilford Brimley as Mr. Moneybags.
BRIAN COX COULD READ A POP TART BOX AND IT WOULD CREEP ME OUT
Brian Cox is reuniting with the director of his creepy pedofile drama, L.I.E. for an adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart, shortened down to just Tell-Tale. Josh Lucas costars in this version of the tale (which sounds a bit like The Eye), which follows a recent heart transplant recipient who must find the killer of the heart’s original owner, or he will die. In other words, it’s not really anything like Poe’s story. Oh well. Brian Cox and Josh Lucas also have the distinction of belonging to the small club of actors who have played military officers in movies based on Marvel super heroes.
UWE BOLL, I BOLL, WE ALL BOLL WHEN WE SEE HIS MOVIES
The director who has done so much to give videogame adaptations the reputation they have, Uwe Boll, has got two more on the way this year, Postal and Far Cry, and trailers for both are now online. Postal seems to take a bit of a right turn from the games, but in a weird way, it has a Troma-style bizarro-comic thing going, like Boll is embracing his unique place in this great big world we all share. He makes crap so we don’t have to! Bravo! Far Cry is more of a straight adaptation, and it features Udo Kier, which is another one of those guys who embraces his status as a direct-to-video king. When Udo Kier is in a movie, it’s just a little bit harder for me to really hate a movie, somehow. Anyway, the funny thing about the Far Cry trailer is that it’s a case of a live action movie having worse graphics than a videogame. Graphics of people and real objects, that is. I also appreciate the over the top way the trailer celebrates Til Schweiger. If he sticks with Uwe Boll, maybe someday he can become the Miles O’Keefe of the 21st century. Note to myself: I made a Miles O’Keefe reference. My day could be done right here.
TEST YOUR MIGHT, FIGHT… MORTAL KOMBAT!
It may be difficult to explain if your taste doesn’t skew a certain way, but somehow, the original Mortal Kombat movie back in 1995 really entertained me. I’m not particularly a fan of the video game series, or even what I could consider a *super* avid fan of martial arts, but somehow that movie really worked for me (I think it may have been the techno soundtrack). Well, Midway hopes to revive the movie series with a third entry that would start over from scratch (which I think means the draft that’s been floating for years, by people who write for “Ain’t it Cool News” may have been scrapped), and a young director whose short resume includes the word “Seagal.”
TEKKEN THREE WAS THE BOMB BACK IN THE DAY, YO
That title has nothing to do with this movie, really, just a statement of fact. I’ve never been a big fighting game fan, but even I got hooked on that one. Anyway, probably hoping to get a movie made before Uwe Boll gets around to it (isn’t that really, the best reason to make a videogame movie?), director Dwight Little (Anacondas, Halloween 4) is getting his cast together for an imminent film start, including Luke Goss (as Steve Fox), who plays one of the baddies in Hellboy 2: The Golden Army. The casting announcement for Goss makes it sound like the plot might revolve around him, but really, I hope there are several subplots, one for each fighter, because if the game series has any story at all, it’s just those little cinematic introduction stories for each character. So, a movie, I would guess, could just be those, more elaborate, interspersed with lengthy fight scenes. One of the big problems with writers of video game adaptations is that they try to “movie-fy” the property, ignoring the things that make the games fun and interesting. Really, I think, people just want to see similar experiences, but on the big screen (well, maybe not too similar, like in Doom). But martial arts movies are so close to being video games, that making this one (or Mortal Kombat) too wordy would be kind of silly. Really, don’t we just want to see girls fighting giant panda bears and biker dudes with names like Hwoarang?
REQUIEM FOR A SLEEPER HOLD
Darren Aronofsky, one of the most visually inventive directors of our time, has tackled mathematics, drug abuse, bizarre sci-fi visions of eternity and Batman (well, we didn’t actually see his movie get made, but he sure spent a long time working on it). So, of course, the next logical step would be.. a wrasslin’ movie, The Wrestler, starring Mickey Rourke as a wrestler who was big in the 1980s, and sees his chance at a comeback by once again taking on his heel, The Ayatollah. Rourke is looking suitably buff (and haggard), and Aronofsky is using real professional wrestlers from the ECW and the WXW leagues, with the latter providing a glimpse of Rourke in character on their site. Somehow, I’m reminded of that running gag in the Coen Bros’ Barton Fink that the central character, a writer, was working on a “wrestling picture”, as if such a thing was a common and profitable genre (admittedly, I guess maybe they were at the time Barton Fink was set). Anyway, it’s pretty exciting to think about what Aronofsky is likely to do with this story. I just hope it does make me nauseous like Requiem for a Dream did. Or maybe I hope it does.
THE SORCERER SUPREME, STEPHEN STRANGE, STUDIES SINISTER SECRETS IN HIS SANCTUM SANCTORUM
With a full plate that includes a continuing commitment to the Hellboy series, his own original scripts and the looming possibility of two Hobbit movies, the latest bit of news about a possible project for Mexican director Guillermo del Toro should not be given two much urgency, but here it is. Del Toro recently talked about his interest in adapting Marvel’s classic Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange, as a live action film, following on the heels of the recent, and excellent, direct-to-video animated movie. I think del Toro could be an excellent choice if he made the film focus on the strange dimensions Stephen Strange often travels to (Pan’s Labyrinth is a reference point), but I’m a bit wary that del Toro says he wouldn’t put Strange in his trademark cloak (complete with the Eye of Agamotto), and tricked out collar. Dr. Strange is all about fantasy, and I think if you’re going to do it, you might as go big. I never understand the reticence filmmakers have about costumes. Their logic goes something like, “the audience will believe a guy can fly or shoot beams out of his butt, but oh no, they’d never believe he would wear THAT!” Look at Sam Raimi‘s Spider-Man. He didn’t put Spider-Man in a black leather jacket. He put Spider-Man in a Spider-Man suit because he’s, you know… Spider-Man. So, Doctor Strange should wear his trademark bizarre costume. He should also retain all of his awesome summoning poetry, but that argument will be for another column, perhaps.
INSERT AMBIGUOUS MOVIE GENRE TITLE HERE
With their own next directing project, Speed Racer, no doubt in postproduction and getting ready for its big premiere in May, the Wachowski Brothers are also looking at their next producing project after that, to be helmed by James McTeigue, who got his debut under their auspice with V for Vendetta. The title of that project is Ninja Assassin, which might be okay if it was the title of an comic or video game adaptation, but as a movie title seems oddly bland, almost like one of those spoof movies (Superhero Movie, Scary Movie, etc). Pretty much nothing is known about the movie, except the first person to be cast is an Asian pop star/dancer named Rain and/or Jung Ji-Hoon, with filming starting next month. Even though no plot details have been announced, just based on that two word title, I’m going to guess the following, anyway. I’m going to spitball that it tells the story of a promising young assassin who is recruited to learn the deadly ninja arts, but as he ascends the ranks, he discovers there is a faction of ninja assassins who want to kill the old guard and corrupt the order into being an evil band of mercenaries, and our young hero is the only one standing in their way. If that turns out to be even remotely accurate, I didn’t guess it because I have inside sources. I have seen ninja movies.
MAYBE THEY CAN CAST PATRICK SWAYZE, RANDY TRAVIS AND MEAT LOAF AND CALL IT BLACK DOG 2
I suppose we should count our blessings that movie studios don’t get their ideas for movies from reality TV a lot more than they do. I suspect they may still remember the financial sting from the American Idol and Real World movies. Anyway, 20th Century Fox bought the movie rights this week to the concept of the History Channel series, Ice Road Truckers, which taken out of context, sounds like a really tough racing video game stage. “Ice Road Truckers” is about 18 wheelers in Canada’s Northwestern Territories that drive across hundreds of miles of frozen lakes to deliver supplies to remote diamond mines (and transporting their goods back out). An opportunity to film a movie in Canada, how can a studio turn that down? What makes the documentary series fascinating could work on the big screen. Or it could really, really suck (quick, name an awesome trucker movie!).
SORT OF LIKE HOW CLOVERFIELD WASN’T ABOUT A PASTURE
In response to (possibly premature) news last week that he is (among the several directors) in talks, Rob Zombie mentioned on his blog this week that his next two movies are an animated project called The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (that one’s been known about for a while; it looks to me like it might be direct-to-video) and a project called Tyrannosaurus Rex, which is not about dinosaurs. My personal hunch (which some others have thought of as well) is that perhaps Zombie has his eye on doing a musical biopic about Marc Bolan, lead singer of the seminal 70’s glam band, T. Rex (short for the movie’s title). In a way, Rob Zombie’s musical is a form of super-extreme biker metal glam, so I can see him doing a movie about Marc Bolan, who died in a car crash just as his fame was starting to fade.
WHAT, ME INSPIRE A BIOPIC?
His career has frankly taken a bit of a commercial dive for the last 20 years or so, but there was a time (for me, personally) where director John Landis was THE guy whose movies I most anticipated. An American Werewolf in London, Kentucky Fried Movie, Three Amigos!, The Blues Brothers and Animal House pretty much devoured my VCR in the 1980s. So, I’m always on the watch for a movie that might bring him back into the mainstream, and his next movie sounds really promising. Ghoulishly Yours, William M. Gaines is a biopic of Gaines, the founder of E.C. Comics, which was the publishing house of a wide variety of comics and magazines starting in the 1950s, from ultra-gory horror comics (like Tales from the Crypt), to wildly inventive science fiction, to salacious detective stories, to possibly his most popular title, the juvenile (for juveniles of all ages) humor magzine, MAD. If he has the budget and/or creative resources to inject imagery that matches the trademark art of E.C.’s magazines into the movie, for example, this could be a really cool project.
WHAT WONDERS THIRTY THOUSAND GALLONS OF COPPERTONE CAN ACHIEVE
The long-in-development biopic about the early years of celebrity/actor George Hamilton is finally getting underway, with Renée Zellweger playing his mother, in the tale of a mother of two boys in search of a wealthy man to support her family. My One and Only will be directed by Richard Loncraine (Richard III, Firewall). Props have to go to CHUD.com for beating me to the punch of pointing out the irony that one of the palest actresses in the business will be playing the mother of one of the tannest caucasian men ever, ever, ever.
SHAKING OUT THE REST OF THE KETCHUP IN THIS WEEK’S BOTTLE
Here’s the rest of the week’s top movie development news, all stream of consciousness style.
– Breck Eisner (Sahara) will be directing Rogue Pictures’ remake of George A. Romero‘s The Crazies, a low budget horror movie about a town that goes insane after a chemical leak. I’m guessing a modern take on it will be a lot like 28 Days Later, where the “zombies” were basically just insane with rage (disease, poison, same difference).
– Casting is ramping up for Underworld 3: The Rise of the Lycans, a prequel to the vampires versus werewolves horror/action series. Although several cast members are returning for the third tale, Kate Beckinsale and her director-husband will not be.
– Proving early rumors following Heath Ledger‘s death to be true, director Terry Gilliam has come up with a clever way to finish The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and pay homage to Ledger at the same time. Because Ledger’s character travels to different worlds of a sort, three actors will play Ledger’s character in each incarnation: Jude Law, Colin Farrell and Johnny Depp.
– Director Doug Liman, who got the Bourne series off to its start, will get his chance to work with his original Mr. and Mrs. Smith star, Nicole Kidman (she bailed and was replaced by Angelina Jolie, who started her relationship with Brad Pitt on the set; oh how tabloid history may have been different), after all. The two are teaming up for Fair Game, an adaptation of Valerie Plame’s autobiography, in the story of how she was “outed” as a C.I.A. agent when her husband challenged claims made by the Bush administration about Iraq’s plans to acquire weapons of mass destruction.
That’s it for my second week of the column, here at my new home at Rotten Tomatoes. Thanks surely go out to everyone who left good wishes in the comments last week.