This week’s Ketchup covers ten headlines from the arena of film development news from the last seven days. Included in the mix this time around are stories about such movies as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Charlie’s Angels, an Evel Knievel biopic, War of the Planet of the Apes, and new roles for Ice Cube and Jennifer Lawrence.
As we frequently cover in the Weekly Ketchup, Walt Disney Pictures is currently in the midst of reviving many of their classic animated films as live action reboots and remakes. Not all of Disney’s hits from the middle of the 20th Century were (100 percent) animated, however, such as 1964’s Mary Poppins, based on the first novel in the series by P.L. Travers (as depicted in Saving Mr. Banks). Possibly confusing matters, some this week reported that Disney was going to “remake” Mary Poppins, but what they’re actually doing is rather more conventional (and one might guess, in keeping with Travers’ intentions). Walt Disney Pictures has started development of a new Mary Poppins musical movie which would be a sequel set 20 years after the original movie in the 1930s. This new Mary Poppins musical will be directed by Rob Marshall, whose filmography includes Chicago, Nine, and last year’s Into the Woods. For the film, the songwriting duo of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (Hairspray, Smash) will start working on new songs that will attempt to follow up on the classics written for the first movie, like “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and “A Spoonful of Sugar.” There’s no word yet about who Disney might be hoping to cast as the older Mary Poppins, or any of the members of the Banks family.
One of the biopic projects that has been kicking (and jumping and rocket-cycling) around Hollywood since the 1990s has been the idea of an Evel Knievel movie. “Evel Knievel” might not be as well known a celebrity as he was in the 1970s, but during that time, Knievel was arguably one of the most famous figures in pop culture, following a series of well-publicized super stunts (some of which weren’t successful) on both motorcycles and a steam-powered rocket called the “Skycycle X-2.” In the past, stars such as Johnny Knoxville and Matthew McConaughey have been rumored or attached to star as Evel Knievel, but lately, it has been Channing Tatum who wanted to put on Knievel’s star-spangled jumpsuit. The project, which may be based on the Pure Evel biography book, is now being discussed with director Darren Aronofsky, whose filmography as director includes Black Swan, Noah, Requiem for a Dream, and possibly closest to an Evel Knievel movie, The Wrestler. In other Channing Tatum news, his superhero movie Gambit this week lost its director, Rupert Wyatt, over scheduling conflicts, as Fox is racing to get the movie made in time for an October, 2016 release.
One of the complaints movie fans sometimes have about recent DC Comics superhero movies is that they are less “fun,” or at least less “funny,” than their counterparts at Marvel Studios. This was a notion that some felt gained traction last year with a story that claimed that WB has a “no jokes” policy about their upcoming superhero scripts. Of course, that never necessarily meant that Warner Bros couldn’t change their plans, especially if they started to think that there would be a backlash over it, right? That might at least be one way to interpret the late-breaking news this week that Warner Bros is starting development of a movie focusing on the Blue & Gold team of Booster Gold and Blue Beetle. Like many of DC’s characters who aren’t Batman, Booster Gold and Blue Beetle are usually portrayed in the comics as being less serious and/or comedic. Blue Beetle is your typical inventor-turned-superhero (who was given a dark interpretation as Nite-Owl II in Watchmen). Booster Gold is a more unique concept, as a time traveler from the distant future who uses technology and knowledge of past events to make a name for himself in our time. Reportedly, WB is also hoping to recruit screenwriter Zak Penn, who worked on The Avengers for Marvel, to come across town to work on Blue & Gold.
With Sony’s plans for a female reboot of Ghostbusters now less than a year away from release (7/15/16), the studio is now looking at other female-centric action comedies. The latest that we’ve heard about involves rebooting a TV-show-adaptation from 2000 (and a sequel in 2003), which was the private eye comedy Charlie’s Angels. The director that Sony has recruited for their Charlie’s Angels reboot is Elizabeth Banks, who is in high demand following her successful directorial debut with this year’s Pitch Perfect 2. The reboot doesn’t yet have a screenwriter yet, so it’s probably a few years away from happening. It’s also unknown if Elizabeth Banks might also take one of the female leads (or who knows, maybe “Charlie” could be a lady this time?).
In the arena of comic book adaptations, female spies and superheroes often have similar codenames, including Black Widow, Black Canary, and Mockingbird (from ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.). That last one in particular is also similar to the last two movies in the Hunger Games franchise, which is close enough for us to call that a successful segue. 20th Century Fox is currently hoping to put together a package for a spy novel adaptation called Red Sparrow (again, with the color/bird codenames!). What Fox is trying to put together is a new film for both Jennifer Lawrence and director Francis Lawrence (the director of all of the Hunger Games movies except the first one). If Jennifer Lawrence signs on to star in Red Sparrow, she will be playing a young Russian spy and “trained seductress,” who is assigned to “operate against Nathaniel Nash, a first-tour CIA officer who handles the agency’s most sensitive penetration of Russian intelligence.” Red Sparrow is an adaptation of a novel by Jason Matthews.
A few years ago, director Bryan Singer returned to the X-Men film franchise for X-Men: Days of Future Past (and next year’s X-Men: Apocalypse) after starting things off in the early 2000s with the first two X-Men films. This week, we learned that Singer has chosen his next film, and that it won’t be a fifth X-Men movie. Instead, Bryan Singer is taking on an adaptation of Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the classic science fiction story about a high-tech submarine called the Nautilus. Singer’s movie is expected to be produced by 20th Century Fox (also the home of the X-Men franchise). That also means that this project is not the same as the long-in-development reboot that Walt Disney Pictures has been trying to get started, which at one point had David Fincher (Fight Club, Gone Girl) attached to direct. As for the future of the main X-Men film franchise, there have not yet been any announcements outside of spinoffs like Deadpool, Gambit, The New Mutants, X-Force, and a possible X-Men/Fantastic Four crossover. With X-Men: Apocalypse, the team’s second trilogy of films will be concluded.
Although the (movie) summer of 2015 only ended a few weeks ago, much of Hollywood’s current focus is already on the summer of 2017, given the time needed to get expensive summer movies greenlit, cast, produced, marketed, and released. One such film will be 20th Century Fox’s third film in their rebooted Apes franchise, War of the Planet of the Apes (7/14/17). Details aren’t yet known about this third film, except that following the events of 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, humanity’s future was looking quite dire, and the word “war” isn’t exactly a positive portent. For that reason, it shouldn’t be surprising that the humans will be the villains in War of the Planet of the Apes. This week, we learned that the main human villain (“The Colonel”) will be played by Woody Harrelson, who is looking for a new franchise with The Hunger Games wrapping up on November 20.
ROTTEN IDEAs OF THE WEEK
Following the success of both Ride Along and Straight Outta Compton (which was essentially an “Ice Cube biopic”), Universal Pictures is very much interested in staying in the Ice Cube business. This was manifested this week by the news that Universal Pictures has won a studio bidding war to acquire a comedy spec script for Ice Cube to star in. The comedy is called Humbug, and much like the Bill Murray comedy Scrooged, it’s a contemporary retelling of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. If the deal comes together, Ice Cube will play “a wealthy real estate mogul shown a path to redemption by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.” Humbug will be directed by Tim Story, who previously worked with Ice Cube on Barbershop, First Sunday, Ride Along, and next year’s sequel, Ride Along 2. Story also directed the 2005 and 2007 Fantastic Four movies, which now despite having RT scores of 27 and 37 percent have the distinction of being the best reviewed Fantastic Four movies to receive theatrical releases. In similar news (insofar as the connection between Ice Cube and Straight Outta Compton goes), Universal Pictures is also reportedly considering producing another rap industry biopic in the form of an adaptation of the non-fiction book Life and Def: Sex, Drugs, Money + God, about the early years of Def Jam records. If Universal does proceed, an early rumor suggests that they may be considering casting Jonah Hill and Fantastic Four star Michael B. Jordan as Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons, respectively.
The problem with basing the “Rotten Ideas” each week objectively on the aggregated RT Tomatometer scores of those involved, is that sometimes the numbers are misleading (there is such a thing as luck, and it’s not always good). Or sometimes people are punished by bad reviews for trying to operate outside their wheelhouse. Take for example, director Ruben Fleischer, who debuted in 2009 with the genre spoof Zombieland (90 percent on the Tomatometer), and then followed that up with three films as director or producer that have all struggled to receive RT scores above 45 percent. Then, there’s the case of Liam Neeson, who has appeared in plenty of well-received films, but partly because he’s so prolific, he’s also appeared in many (and in recent years, more) Rotten films than Fresh ones. Putting those two creatives together leads us to this week’s news that Liam Neeson has signed with Universal Pictures to star in an action comedy called The Revenger. Nothing is known about the premise, except that the title suggests that it’s possibly a spoof. There’s also the detail that the comedy pitch came from the writing team of The State/Reno 911 stars Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon, who have given us such wacky comedies as Balls of Fury, Herbie: Fully Loaded, and the first two Night at the Museum movies (though as writers, their Tomatometer only has one Fresh score, Starsky & Hutch).
Earlier this year, the news cycle was populated several times about (many, many) different writers who were recruited by Paramount Pictures to participate in a “writers room” experiment for their Transformers franchise. The concept is that for two weeks, the same soundstage where dance recitals for Glee were held was used for over a dozen high profile screenwriters to pitch and “workshop” various ideas on where the Transformers franchise should go next. This week, we learned some preliminary details about two of the first projects to emerge from this experiment. The first such film is the least surprising, which is that there will be a straight up fifth Transformers movie, and the second to feature Mark Wahlberg in the lead role after last year’s Transformers: Age of Extinction. That film will be written by Akiva Goldsman (Batman & Robin, Insurgent), who had also been sort of leading the writers room project. Michael Bay was initially reported to be returning to direct Transformers 5, but Bay quickly replied via Twitter, “Re: directing TF5. No, it’s not official. I have not committed to any idea as of yet.” The other project announced this week comes from screenwriters Andrew Barrer and Gabriel Ferrari (who are described as Ant-Man writers, but they were not credited on that film). Their film will be an animated Transformers movie focusing on the history of the planet Cybertron, and how the Transformers came to be. Barrer and Ferrari are also working on a new Sabrina the Teenage Witch movie.