This week’s Ketchup brings you another ten headlines from the world of film development news (the stories about what movies Hollywood is working on for you next). Included in the mix this time around are stories about such titles as A Bad Moms Christmas, Holmes and Watson, Star Wars Episode IX, the Han Solo prequel, and new roles for Ryan Gosling and Channing Tatum.
When director Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Prisoners) first announced that he was directing the science fiction movie we now know as Arrival, it might have been acknowledged as a genre exercise, sort of like Christopher Nolan taking on Batman Begins. Then, when Villeneuve signed on for this year’s Blade Runner 2049 (10/6/17), it might have seemed like a natural progression from Arrival. With the news we heard late last month, however, it might be time to consider Denis Villeneuve as a a straight-up science fiction director. Specifically, we’re talking about the announcement, made just before Christmas, Villeneuve is signed with Legendary Entertainment to direct their recently acquired first adaptation of the Dune epic, based on Frank Herbert’s popular series of novels. If you are a fan of science fiction films, the oeuvre of director David Lynch, 1980s genre films in general, or any combination of the aforementioned, you may already know that Dune was first adapted as a feature film in 1984, and also as a mini-series on the SyFy channel. It’s a bit much to encapsulate in just one sentence, but the gist of Dune is that it’s a sprawling space opera revolving around the planet Arrakis, which is the source of a drug called the spice melange, which is integral in space travel. Herbert himself wrote six Dune novels, and his son Brian Herbert has cowritten over a dozen other additional Dune novels. So, yes, there is a rich backlog of stories, characters, and epics that could be used for several feature films and/or TV series. It’s unclear if Denis Villeneuve will be able to start work on the first Dune film anytime soon, or if he will also somehow be involved with the expected TV shows. In related news, the first Blade Runner 2049 trailer also debuted in the last month, which you may already know if watched Passengers or Assassin’s Creed in theaters during the last few weeks.
In case you haven’t heard, Whiplash director Damien Chazelle’s musical La La Land (starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling) is a critical smash (Certified Fresh at 93 percent), an Academy Awards frontrunner, and oh yeah, on fewer than 800 screens, it’s already earned over $40 million domestically. Naturally, Chazelle and Gosling have plans to work together again soon, and in between Christmas and the new year, that likely next project was confirmed. It was then that Gosling was officially announced (after earlier “circling” news) to star in Chazelle’s adaptation of the biography First Man: A Life of Neil A. Armstrong. As the title (which is just First Man for the movie) indicates, the book is the life story of astronaut Neil Armstrong, whose most famous accomplishment was being the first human being to walk on the surface of the Moon, on that historic date of July 20, 1969. Although described as a biopic, the movie is expected to mostly focus on the 1960s, climaxing with the famous moon walk. First Man began development at Warner Bros (where it was previously a Clint Eastwood project), but it’s now set up at Universal Pictures.
Wes Anderson is one of those rare film directors whose fame has been established in a few different tiers. Some who have never seen any of his films may only know Anderson as the director whose uniquely quirky style has inspired YouTube spoofs like this, this, this, or any number of others. Through all of his films, Anderson has established a sort of singular cinematic vision, but if one stands out, it’s 2009’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, because unlike his seven other films, it’s a stop-motion animated feature (about talking animals, no less). In late 2015, we first learned that Wes Anderson was working on a “Japanese-inspired” stop-motion animated movie about dogs, and in late 2016, we learned a lot more, including the title. Anderson himself took to YouTube to announce that filming had started on Isle of Dogs, with an impressive voice cast list. F. Murray Abraham, Greta Gerwig, Akira Ito, Scarlett Johansson, Harvey Keitel, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray (not a surprise there), Edward Norton, Kunichi Nomura, Yoko Ono, Koyu Rankin, Liev Schreiber, Tilda Swinton, Akira Takayama, and Courtney B. Vance are among those joining the previously announced Bob Balaban, Bryan Cranston, and Jeff Goldblum. There is no release date yet for Isle of Dogs, but some sources speculate that it could premiere at a major film festival in 2018, and then be released in time for “awards season” in late 2018.
During the casting process of a new movie, producers might say, “we need someone like a [insert actor name here] type,” before someone realizes they could just secure the actor in question. As the producers at Lucasfilm prepared to cast what we now know to be a “mentor” character for the young Han Solo, it’s fun to imagine that’s what happened with Woody Harrelson. However it went down, this week we learned that very early negotiations have indeed begun with the former Cheers star to co-star in the film we’ve been calling Han Solo: A Star Wars Story (5/25/18). If Harrelson does indeed sign on, he will be the fourth announced cast member, following Alden Ehrenreich (Han Solo), Donald Glover (Lando Calrissian), and Emilia Clarke (the unconfirmed female lead). Whatever it ends up being called, the first “young Han Solo” prequel will be directed by the team of Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who previously brought us 21 Jump Street, The LEGO Movie, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.
Speaking of 21 Jump Street, Channing Tatum also made the news this week. The term “Triple Frontier” refers to an area of dangerous wilderness where the three South American borders shared by Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay meet, which is heavily utilized by both drug cartels and Islamic terrorist groups. And since 2010, Triple Frontier has also been the title of a drama that started off with director Kathryn Bigelow (when she was fresh off The Hurt Locker), which at the time might have featured Johnny Depp and Tom Hanks. Bigelow eventually moved on (so that she could work on her Detroit riots movie), and J.C. Chandor (Margin Call, A Most Violent Year) is now attached to direct instead. Earlier this week, we learned that the two stars who are now in talks to star are (the much younger) duo of Tom Hardy and Channing Tatum, who are both in early negotiations. Triple Frontier is expected to be an ensemble crime drama, so it’s still possible that actors like Depp, Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Will Smith could still technically appear in Triple Frontier, but this week’s news only directly involved Hardy and Tatum.
Office Christmas Party was not a huge box office opener last month, but it wasn’t a flat-out disappointment either, opening at #2 domestically, and currently earning over $53 million (which would seem like a bigger success if the budget wasn’t $45 million). Jason Bateman starred in the film, which fits somewhere below Horrible Bosses, Identity Thief, and Central Intelligence on his comedy resume. This week, we learned that New Line Cinema has chosen to work with Bateman again (after Central Intelligence) on a new comedy called Game Night. Rachel McAdams will co-star in Game Night as the other half of a married couple who find that their regular “game night” goes terribly wrong, as related comedic high jinx continue to ensue. Game Night will be directed by the team of Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, who made their feature film directorial debut with the remake of National Lampoon’s Vacation in 2015.
Following the $110 million box office success last summer of Bad Moms, a male-centric spinoff called Bad Dads was announced last October, complete with a release date in July, 2017. That’s now only six months away, but we’ve gotten no casting news in the three months since (which suggests that Bad Dads might be on the backburner). What we did hear about, two days before Christmas, was that STX Entertainment has scheduled a direct Bad Moms sequel for November 3, 2017. That film will be called A Bad Moms Christmas, and the three female leads (Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and Kathryn Hahn) are all expected to return, as well as directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore. The first film earned a “borderline” Rotten score of 59 percent, which is why we’re putting this one right on the edge (for now) as well.
First off, we should note that, in the past, there has indeed been talk about a possible sequel to the 2004 hit comedy Mean Girls, and there eventually was one, sort of, in the form of an ABC TV movie featuring almost none of the original cast. It seems that as the original stars aged into their 30s, Tina Fey and the rest have moved on to other projects. One principal who clearly wants to return to their 2004 past glories is Lindsay Lohan (and really, if you were her, could you blame her?), who, we learned over the holidays, has written her own treatment for a Mean Girls sequel. Lohan, who turned 30 last July, hopes to convince Tina Fey to drop whatever else she’s working on and get the old team back together for some more high school mean-girling and such. In other Mean Girls news (that actually happened on the same day, December 30th), Tina Fey and Lorne Michaels have hired a director for their musical play based on — that’s right — Mean Girls. Some sort of sequel to Mean Girls might indeed be a great idea, but we have less confidence in Lindsay Lohan’s screenwriting talents, so this is one of our latest “Rotten Ideas.”
The Sherlock Holmes comedy Holmes and Watson was first announced with its two comedic stars, Will Ferrell (Holmes) and John C. Reilly (Watson), already attached. However, since one of the keys to good comedy is the presence of a “straight man,” it was probably always a sure thing that the studio would hire at least one more “straight laced” actor for Ferrell and Reilly to bounce their high jinx off. This morning, we learned that Ralph Fiennes (Hail, Caesar!, The English Patient) and Hugh Laurie (TV’s House M.D.) have been cast in Holmes and Watson, which recently began filming in London. Their roles haven’t been announced yet, but they’re described as playing “two beloved characters from the Holmes oeuvre.” Given that hint, we can speculate that Fiennes and Laurie could be playing such Sherlock Holmes supporting characters as Inspector Lestrade, Mycroft Holmes, Professor Moriarty, or maybe for funsies, gender-swapped versions of landlady Mrs. Hudson or even romantic interest Irene Adler. Holmes and Watson is being directed by Get Hard director Etan Cohen, who also wrote the screenplay. That film’s 29 percent Tomatometer score is why this is one of the week’s Rotten Ideas.
Long before December (heck, back in April even), people all over the Internet were expressing disbelief at exactly how many beloved celebrities from all forms of entertainment departed our world in 2016. And then, on December 27th, we lost Carrie Fisher, and on the next day, reportedly while preparing Carrie’s funeral plans, her mother Debbie Reynolds died as well, as if 2016 wanted to kick us while we were down. The deaths of both were losses to their family, their fans, and Hollywood in general, but Debbie Reynolds’ work in recent years was mostly in television, so in this movie column, it was the death of Carrie Fisher that might have the most impact. Very soon after her passing, it was confirmed that Fisher had finished filming her role as General Organa in next year’s Star Wars Episode VIII, in what has been described as an expansion past what her role was in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. However, the biggest question mark surrounds 2019’s Star Wars Episode IX, which we have since learned was supposed to have an even larger role for Fisher. Lucasfilm is reportedly “weighing their options,” which probably varies from General Organa’s death happening in between Episodes VIII and IX, Organa dying in Star Wars Episode VIII itself, or (and this would be probably the worst idea, in this writer’s opinion), Leia Organa getting “Tarkinized,” a la Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. We can probably expect to hear more about this development as 2017 progresses.