This week’s Ketchup brings you another 10 headlines from the world of film development news (the stories about what movies Hollywood is working on for you next), covering stories for titles like Aladdin 2, The Batman, Hamilton, and Porgy and Bess.
Disney’s CGI remake of The Lion King was one of last year’s biggest box office hits ($1.65 billion and #2 behind Avengers: Endgame), but Disney’s Aladdin also did extremely well, topping $1 billion worldwide. We have not heard about plans for a Lion King sequel (and there certainly were sequels and prequels to the original film), but that’s exactly what happened for Aladdin this week. Despite its box office success, Aladdin has a Rotten Tomatometer score at 57%, which might help to explain why Disney has hired a new pair of screenwriters for the sequel, and there’s no word yet about director Guy Ritchie returning. The new writers are John Gatins (Power Rangers, Real Steel) and Andrea Berloff (World Trade Center; co-writer of Straight Outta Compton), but their credits only give us tiny hints at what their Aladdin sequel could be like (i.e. about as much as you could tell about Aladdin by looking at the credits of director Guy Ritchie). Not much has been revealed about the Aladdin sequel, except that it won’t be a Disney Plus title, and it won’t be an adaptation of any of the 1990s direct-to-video sequels.
We are over 16 months away from the release in the summer of 2021 of The Batman (6/25/2021), the reboot of DC Comics’ most popular superhero to introduce Robert Pattinson (Twilight, The Lighthouse) as our new Bruce Wayne. Even though the movie is that far away, director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, War for the Planet of the Apes) this week released a video described as “camera test footage” that shows off both the new Batman costume and also some of the new musical theme from composer Michael Giacchino (LOST, Star Trek, Avengers: Endgame). Curiously, Reeves chose to show us the new Batman costume bathed in a dark red lighting, which also inspired comparisons to the costume from Netflix’s Daredevil (even if it won’t actually be red). It’s very possible that the reason the costume preview came out this week is that Reeves will soon be starting the exterior filming of The Batman, at which point we probably will be getting set photos of Pattinson as The Batman anyway (in addition to Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman, Paul Dano as the Riddler, and Colin Farrell as the Penguin).
There have been so many superhero movies in recent years that we’re increasingly at a point where there are nearly more major stars who have been in them than those who haven’t. So, for example, the new movie from David O. Russell (American Hustle, Silver Linings Playbook) has three big stars, and they’re The Dark Knight, Killmonger from Black Panther, and Harley Quinn. Christian Bale was the first to sign on for Russell’s untitled new film (formerly titled Amsterdam), and this week gave us two of his co-stars, both within a few hours of each other. First up was Margot Robbie, the star of last week’s Birds of Prey, who landed the female lead that had formerly had been speculated as a possible role for frequent Russell collaborator Jennifer Lawrence. The Robbie announcement was quickly followed on Wednesday by Michael B. Jordan, who is taking a role for which Jamie Foxx had previously been rumored as a frontrunner. David O. Russell is keeping the premise secret, but it’s described as being about an unlikely partnership between a doctor and a lawyer.
It may not have been immediately obvious, but there was one awkward element in the news last week that Walt Disney Pictures would be releasing a filmed version of the Broadway hit Hamilton in theaters next year (10/15/2021). That awkward detail is the language of some of the dialogue, which includes what we will delicately call “F bombs.” The sticky issue here is that Disney has a self-described policy of PG-13-and-under ratings, which the repeated use of the “F word” would seem buck against (the MPAA does sometimes allow that word to be used once in a film and retain its PG-13 rating). So, Lin-Manuel Miranda was asked by a New York Times reporter this week about how Disney is going to reconcile the language issue, and he confirmed that, “if we have to mute a word here or there to reach the largest audience possible, I’m OK with that, because your kids already have the original language memorized.” One possibility is that perhaps Disney will use some sort of sound effect (like a drum beat or a cymbal clang) that will blur the language without specifically using a “bleep” sound or an over obvious “muting” sound effect.
Sometimes two completely different movie stories will come out in the same week that have remarkably similar themes. This week, it was “biopics about female Olympic athletes.” One of them will be called Perfect, which will be an adaptation of the book Landing on My Feet: A Diary of Dreams, co-written by 1990s Olympic gymnast Kerri Strug, about her struggle at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta (also the setting of last year’s Richard Jewell). The adaptation of Strug’s book will be directed by actress-turned-director Olivia Wilde, who made her debut last year with Booksmart (Certified Fresh at 97%). It’s not yet known if the Kerri Strug biopic will be Olivia Wilde’s next film as director. The other Olympic movie in the news this week is Fencer, in which Zoe Saldana will star as Olympic fencer Jasmine McGlade for producer Casey Affleck.
Although some stories seem to get new movie adaptations ever three or four years (Peter Pan, Dracula, Robin Hood, etc.), there are others that have either never been adapted, or haven’t been in several decades. One such example of that is George Gershwin’s opera of love in the American South, Porgy and Bess, which previously was adapted by Otto Preminger as a movie in 1959. Mudbound director Dee Rees is now partnering with MGM for a new adaptation, which Rees will both write and direct. It’s not yet known who might play either Porgy or Bess, or whether Dee Rees’ adaptation might shift the setting from 1920s Charleston to a more contemporary setting (or if the music will be updated). Mudbound received a Certified Fresh Tomatometer at 97% and four Academy Award nominations (Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Original Song, and Cinematography).
As new ways of telling stories emerge, they also eventually lead to movies being adapted from them. For example, in the last few years, we’ve had both The Emoji Movie and Slenderman, based on online phenomenons. Another new form that has its origins in the Internet is the podcast, which takes many forms, but there are some that actually tell narrative stories. Cynthia Erivo, who starred in last year’s Harriet, played one of the characters in the sci-fi podcast Carrier, and she is now attached to reprise her role as a truck driver in a movie adaptation. Carrier will be produced by Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners, which recently co-produced both 1917 and Dark Waters.
In the United States, there are many popular casino games (blackjack, roulette, craps), but one that is less popular is baccarat, which most Americans probably know only as the game James Bond likes to play. Baccarat’s pop culture reputation may soon get a bump thanks to Awkwafina, who is now attached to star as real-life professional gambler Cheung Yin “Kelly” Sun in a biopic called The Baccarat Machine. Despite that title, one game that might actually be depicted as much (or more) is poker, because the story will reportedly depict Sun’s “unlikely partership with legendary poker player Phil Ivey.”
If you’re a fan of Ghostbusters, you might already know that Rick Moranis has famously been something of a recluse for many years now, and has frequently turned down opportunities to return to franchises like Ghostbusters. So, when the news broke out last year that Josh Gad was attached to star in Shrunk, a sequel and/or reboot of the popular Honey, I Shrunk the Kids franchise, one might have been tempted to theorize about who might be cast in the role originally played by Moranis. One need not fan-cast such a replacement, it turns out, because Disney worked their magic and got Moranis to return in a supporting role to Josh Gad’s character as his scientist son. There had been some online speculation that Shrunk might be a Disney Plus project, but it was also confirmed this week to be a planned theatrical release.
There seems to be something about classic slasher franchises from the 1970s and 1980s that lends them to being rebooted or remade multiple times. For some higher profile examples, the Halloween franchise was soft-rebooted in 2018 after having already been rebooted by Rob Zombie in 2007, and a similar reboot is in the works for Friday the 13th. Another slasher franchise that already has a particular confusing filmography to decipher is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which has what are described as both a “remake series” (2003 and 2006) and an “alternate series” (the more recent films from 2013 and 2017). Legendary Pictures, the company behind monster reboots like Godzilla and Kong: Skull Island, is now developing a reboot of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to be directed by Ryan and Andy Tohill, who made their feature film debuts in 2018 with the indie film The Dig (Fresh at 73%). This latest reboot will be produced by Fede Alvarez (the director of Don’t Breathe), who described their version as, “violent, exciting, and so depraved it will stay with you forever.” Tobe Hooper’s original 1974 film is Certified Fresh at 88%, but the other later films are all Rotten.