Weekly Ketchup

Weekly Ketchup: X-Men: First Class characters confirmed

Plus a full slate of remakes, sequels and adaptations this week.

by | April 17, 2009 | Comments

This week’s Ketchup has news about sequels to Nanny McPhee, remakes of Piranha and Little Shop of Horrors, a movie version of Father Knows Best and new movies for Kristen Bell, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Megan Fox.


X-Men franchise producer Laura Shuler-Donner clarified this week one of the big mysteries and confusions about the upcoming X-Men: First Class project, although given the title and source material, it shouldn’t have been a mystery at all. The confusion started when Variety a while back speculated that the movie would focus on the young mutants from the previous movies, like Kitty Pryde, Rogue, Iceman, etc. However, the actual X-Men: First Class comic specifically focuses on the five canon characters who were actually Charles Xavier’s first students: Cyclops, Marvel Girl (Jean Grey), Beast, Iceman and Angel. Anyway, Ms. Shuler-Donner said, “It is the first class of Xavier’s school, way back when, so it’s young Scott, young Jean, young Beast, and that’ll be really fun.” Given that we know from the many commercials that Cyclops is a character in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, it appears that X-Men: First Class could be designed to stay within in the existing franchise’s continuity, since what Laura Shuler-Donner did not say is that Angel or Iceman will be appearing in the movie (since they were retconned into being much younger in the movies). So, the question I would have now as a fan is whether X-Men: First Class will just focus on those three characters, or might other mutants be brought in as Xavier’s earliest students? Some possibilities that I might suggest are Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch (who would tie in nicely to the upcoming X-Men Origins: Magneto), Mimic (the first character added to the team after the original five) and perhaps some of the 1970s X-Men who haven’t yet appeared in the movies, like Banshee, Sunfire and Thunderbird.


Although the graphic novel it’s based on isn’t even out yet, a monster movie called I, Frankenstein is in development, setting classic monsters like Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula, Quasimodo and the Invisible Man in a modern film-noir setting (think Sin City). I, Frankenstein (both the graphic novel and the movie) was written by Kevin Grievoux, cocreator of the Underworld franchise, and Patrick Tatopoulos (Underworld: Rise of the Lycans) is on board to direct. Ryan Turek, AKA Ryan Rotten of ShockTilYouDrop.com is producing, along with Death Ray Films, the company behind War Monkeys. In I, Frankenstein, the classic monsters are reimagined, with Frankenstein’s Monster being a private detective, Count Dracula being a criminal mastermind, and the Invisible Man being a secret agent.


Although it’s seemed over the last few years that the once prolific practice of Hollywood adapting old TV shows into movies had abated a bit, it looks like 20th Century Fox may not have gotten the memo, as the studio is developing a movie version of Father Knows Best, the 1954-1960 show starring Robert Young. What makes this remake seem particularly odd is that the premise doesn’t seem to be based on Father Knows Best at all, as it focuses on a father whose own father moves in with the family, and the two men’s parenting styles conflict, comedically no doubt. The problem there is that from what I remember of Father Knows Best, there was no grandfather character, and so that really wasn’t the point of the show at all. Anyway, the script is being worked on by Chad and Dara Creasey, who previously wrote episodes of Pushing Daisies and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. It’s also worth noting that the idea of a Father Knows Best has been around since the mid-1990s, when Universal hired the writers of Brokeback Mountain to work on a script (consulted by Robert Young himself), and then in 2003, Paramount and Nickelodeon were developing a movie that would have starred Tim Allen.


Although it’s doubtful that there are many Nanny McPhee fanboys, the 2005 Mary Poppins-ish fantasy film starring Emma Thompson actually did quite well internationally, so pre-production is underway on Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang, which moves the story ahead a hundred years (her being all magical-like) to World War II England. In addition to Emma Thompson reprising the role, Maggie Gyllenhaal will also be starring in this sequel, which focuses on the conflict between war evacuee children from the city and from the country, as their cultures and backgrounds clash, and the magical nanny no doubt steps in to settle things. Emma Thompson wrote the screenplay for this sequel, but it’s unknown who will be directing. Also, Rhys Ifans and Ralph Fiennes are rumored to be costarring as well, but that hasn’t been confirmed yet. Filming is scheduled to start in May, 2009 at Shepperton Studios in England.


Michael Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning superhero deconstructionist novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, is still stuck in nearly a decade of development, but the author has found a new job: he’s been hired by Disney to work on their big budget movie version of Edgar Rice Burrough’s John Carter of Mars. Chabon actually wrote a script in 1995 called The Martian Agent, as a reaction to his lifelong desire to write something inspired by Burrough’s Barsoom saga, so this appears to be a perfect fit for all involved. John Carter of Mars will be a 2-hour, FX-filled action movie that will mark the live-action debut of Pixar director Andrew Stanton (WALL-E, Finding Nemo). As someone who grew up devouring the John Carter books (I think I read each one faster than possibly any other book at the time, I was so engrossed in his adventures), the idea of Barsoom being brought to the movies by people who “get it” has always been near the top of my cinematic wish list. At one point, Robert Rodriguez was working on a John Carter of Mars project, but Andrew Stanton’s Pixar work is top notch, so he will definitely do.


A few years back, the drug smuggling drama Maria Full of Grace was a big Sundance hit, and now Megan Fox has signed to star in a similar thriller, as a woman forced to become a drug smuggler to save her husband’s life in Screen Gems’ The Crossing. Megan Fox has been lining up lots of roles lately, starring with Mickey Rourke as an angel in Passion Plays, playing the female lead in Jonah Hex, playing the Aqua-Girl lead in the comic book adaptation Fathom, starring in the Diablo Cody-written Jennifer’s Body, and of course returning for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. The Crossing doesn’t yet have a director, but filming is expected to start in July, 2009. The Crossing was written by Philip de Blasi and Byron Willinger, who is also working on the movie version of Milton’s classic Paradise Lost, about Adam and Eve’s fall from grace.


Kristen Bell, star of Forgetting Sarah Marshall and TV’s Veronica Mars and Heroes, will star in the Disney comedy You Again, about a woman who finds out her brother is engaged to the girl who made her life miserable in high school. You Again is the next project for director Andy Fickman, who is coming off two Dwayne Johnson-starring family comedies for Disney that both did quite well at the box office for the studio: The Game Plan and Race to Witch Mountain. You Again is also Kristen Bell’s second comedy for Disney, following this August’s When in Rome, costarring Josh Duhamel. It’s good to see Bell signing on for lots of comedic roles, because although her TV work wasn’t really specifically “comedic”, I’ve been really impressed by Kristen Bell’s natural comedic flair, which I think is what made Forgetting Sarah Marshall as good as it was. Filming is scheduled to start this summer, 2009.


Elizabeth Shue, costar of such movies as Hollow Man and the two Back to the Future sequels, is in negotiations to star in the horror remake Piranha 3-D. Directed by Alexandre Aja (High Tension, The Hills Have Eyes remake), this is actually the second remake of the 1978 horror spoof (following a 1995 remake for Showtime), so rather than the 3 referring to a sequel, it could also be interpreted as referring to this being the third version of the original story. Shue will be starring as the small town sheriff (and mother of three) of Lake Victoria, where some nasty people-munching piranha have recently settled in. Now age 45, Elizabeth Shue has apparently firmly made that transition in her career from being “the girl” to being… “the girl’s mom”. Although Shue’s character does have a daughter, it is her teenage son, Jake, who is more central to the story, but still you get what I mean, right? Casting is underway for the various teenagers who will make up most of the fishies’ diet, and filming starts soon after.


Anyone who’s seen Almost Famous, or who is familiar with Cameron Crowe’s background as a young Rolling Stone music journalist (and husband of Heart’s Nancy Wilson), knows that few film directors are into the whole rock thing as Crowe. So, it’s not surprising that Cameron Crowe has been spending the last few years hanging out with Pearl Jam, in preparation for an upcoming retrospective movie that to be released in 2011 to tie in with the band’s 20th anniversary, although really that’s the anniversary of their first album Ten, since the band actually formed in 1990. Most of the big screen music movies of the last few years have been understandably gearing younger (The Jonas Brothers, Hannah Montana, etc), and Martin Scorsese’s Rolling Stones concert film Shine a Light, represented a completely different generation, so it’s sort of nice to see one of Generation X’s contributions to music being recognized by a big league director. Even if at the time, I thought Pearl Jam were a bunch of poseurs ripping off the alternative scene (I was one of those anti-Seattle backlash snobs), I’ve since come to really dig them. Time truly does heal all wounds.


Director McG is the sort of guy who, well, doesn’t use his real name (Joseph McGinty Nichol). He’s also associated with action movies filled with cinematic bombast, mostly because of the visuals of the two Charlie’s Angels movies, and what we will no doubt see in the upcoming Terminator: Salvation. Another type of movie, however, that McG’s flair for all things big, Big, and BIGGER might also work is… musicals? McG is in talks to adapt the Broadway musical hit Spring Awakening, which won four Tony’s, including Best Musical. Spring Awakening is a rock musical adaptation of a 1891 German play, and is set in late 19th century Germany, focusing on teenagers who are discovering their sexuality, with a plot that includes masturbation, abortion, rape and suicide. McG actually does have a background in music, having directed many videos, produced Sugar Ray’s first album and cowriting songs on their second.


Although I’m perfectly okay with the idea of Piranha 3-D, the third version of an old horror movie, a similiar project that does not pass muster is the idea of a Little Shop of Horrors remake. In this case, the objection is so much based on how awesome the 1960 Roger Corman original was, but has more to do with how perfectly Frank Oz’s 1986 musical version, starring Rick Moranis, Steve Martin and Ellen Greene, nailed the concept. The mastermind behind this remake idea is director Declan O’Brien, who has no big screen experience, but did direct the direct-to-video sequel Wrong Turn 3. O’Brien is coproducing with Roger Corman and Andrew Tennenbaum (the Bourne series), with an eye towards the remake being a “studio feature,” and says, “I have a take on it you’re not going to expect. I’m taking it in a different direction, let’s put it that way.” Here’s hoping the only direction this Little Shop of Horrors remake takes is cancellation, and the reputation of Frank Oz’s musical classic can be preserved.

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. Greg also blogs about the TV show Lost at TwoLosties.Blogspot.com.