This week’s Ketchup brings you another ten headlines from the world of film development news (those stories about what movies Hollywood is working on for you next). Included in the mix this time around are stories about such titles as Call of Duty, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Dumbo, and new roles for Dwayne Johnson, Jeremy Renner, and Christian Bale (as Dick Cheney?).
The smartest movie stars know how to make the most of their opportunities, choosing the right movies at the right time. After a successful career as a professional wrestler, Dwayne Johnson made the transition to movies quickly with 2002’s The Scorpion King, and ever since, he’s been a big screen fixture. He has three big movies this year alone: The Fate of the Furious next week, Baywatch next month, and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle this December. And right now, Johnson is also filming the Rampage video game adaptation, he’s attached to star as Black Adam in WB/DC’s Shazam!, he’ll be Jack Burton in the Big Trouble in Little China remake, and next year (or 2019), he has the action movie Skyscraper. On top of all that, he’s also been mentioned in the past as starring in Disney’s theme park attraction adaptation Jungle Cruise (a la Pirates of the Caribbean), and this week, that deal was confirmed, with Dwayne Johnson now expected to film Jungle Cruise in the spring of 2018 (probably for a 2019 release). Walt Disney Pictures is also adapting movies based on Magic Kingdom (from director Jon Favreau), It’s a Small World, and The Haunted Mansion (starring Ryan Gosling).
Writer/director Adam McKay first made his mark with Will Ferrell comedies like Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Talladega Nights, and Step Brothers, but his focus now is on true stories like 2015’s Academy Award Best Adapted Screenplay winner, The Big Short. With that in mind, one of McKay’s next projects is a (currently untitled) movie about former Vice President Dick Cheney. This week, we learned that McKay has put together a star package for the movie, which is now up to Paramount to either greenlight or let go. To that end, McKay has recruited Christian Bale to star as Dick Cheney, Steve Carell to play Donald Rumsfeld, and Amy Adams to play Cheney’s wife, Lynne Cheney. If the project does get made, some of the other 2000s figures we can expect to be cast probably include George W. Bush, Condoleeza Rice, and that one guy Dick Cheney shot in the face (who then went on to apologize for it). Adam McKay is also attached to direct Jennifer Lawrence in Bad Blood, about the medical testing controversy involving the Theranos company.
Here in the United States, we’re often taught that our nation’s own involvement in World War II started in early 1942, as a reaction to the attack on Pearl Harbor in December, 1941. By that point, however, Europe was already thickly in it, as the Nazis invaded France (and other nations) in 1940, and throughout that year, Germany bombed England for several months in what is known as The Battle of Britain. This summer, director Christopher Nolan is delivering Dunkirk, his own movie about the early years of England’s involvement in the war, and now, we can report that another acclaimed director, Ridley Scott, is also developing a similar movie, specifically about the Battle of Britain. This WWII movie at 20th Century Fox doesn’t have a title yet, but it is described as a “passion project” for Ridley Scott (who has Alien: Covenant coming out next month). The screenplay is currently being adapted by writer Matthew Orton, who also worked on the upcoming Oscar Isaac movie Operation Finale, about the Nazi hunters who caught Holocaust architect Adolf Eichmann.
The success last year ($783 million globally!) of Fox’s R-rated adaptation of Deadpool is changing the way the studios greenlight “comic book” movies. Sony is reportedly considering making their Venom an R-rated horror movie, and WB/DC may also dip into less kid-friendly projects as well. One of the other benefactors of this interest in more “mature” subject matter is comics creator Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead), whose long-running superhero title Invincible is now in adaptation at Universal Pictures. Seth Rogen and his writer/directing partner Evan Goldberg (The Interview, This is the End) are now working on adapting the superhero series about a young hero whose father is basically the “Superman” of his world (except that Invincible goes into some really dark and violent territory). It’s not yet known if Rogen would also costar in Invincible.
It seems like we’ve been hearing rumors about a Beetlejuice sequel since the 1990s (indeed, we have), but we still don’t know for sure that anyone involved is actually going to make it happen (it’s even debatable if they should). Well, this week, we learned about something that might serve as a second best option, as Michael Keaton is now in talks to play the villain in Disney’s live-action remake of Dumbo, to be directed by Tim Burton. If Keaton does sign on for Dumbo, it will be his fourth film directed by Tim Burton, and the first in at least 25 years since 1992’s Batman Returns. And speaking of Batman Returns, one of the other actors in talks to star in Dumbo is Danny DeVito, who played the Penguin in that film. Other actors in talks for roles in Dumbo include Eva Green and Colin Farrell, who is also negotiating to costar in Steve McQueen’s Widows (before moving on to film Dumbo).
Last week, we learned that Jeremy Renner will not be re-appearing in Mission: Impossible 6 (or whatever it ends up being called), due to committments to play Hawkeye in Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War and the untitled fourth Avengers movie. That may be so, but apparently, Renner was able to find time for a friendly game of Tag. We know that because both Jeremy Renner and Hannibal Buress (Daddy’s Home) are now in negotiations to star in New Line Cinema’s comedy called Tag. As the title not-so-subtly suggests, Tag is based on the true story of a group of high school friends from Spokane who spent over 30 years playing the same ongoing session of the popular playground game. If they sign on, Jeremy Renner and Hannibal Buress will be joining the already attached Ed Helms (The Hangover, Vacation).
We’ve known for a while now about Universal Pictures’ ambitious/optimistic plans for a new “cinematic universe” based on their classic monsters, starting with this summer’s The Mummy, starring Tom Cruise. Other monsters known to be planned are The Invisible Man (starring Johnny Depp), Bride of Frankenstein (possibly starring Angelina Jolie), and The Wolfman (including a Dwayne Johnson rumor). Those monsters (along with Dracula) form sort of the core of Universal’s classic lineup, but another that they’re planning on resurrecting is 1954’s The Creature from the Black Lagoon. We’ve never really heard much about who might star in the Black Lagoon remake, but presumably the monster himself/itself might just be a CGI creation. This week, however, we did learn a bit more about the route Universal might be pursuing, because the screenwriter they hired is one Will Beall. In addition to writing 2013’s Gangster Squad (31 percent on the Tomatometer), Beall is also the main screenwriter credited on next year’s Aquaman, starring Jason Momoa as the popular DC Comics character. Having said that, besides the fact that both characters spend a lot of time underwater, there doesn’t seem to be much else connecting Aquaman and The Creature from the Black Lagoon.
It’s funny sometimes how the movie development stories of a given week have a domino effect, creating a bigger picture in just a few days. One such cascade started this past weekend with the news that Sylvester Stallone has “washed his hands” of The Expendables 4 and the franchise that he created (directing the first movie) and starred in (the first three films). That news then led to Arnold Schwarzenegger (who had a cameo in The Expendables and starred in the sequels) announcing that, without Stallone, he’s also out. And it snowballed from there. Schwarzenegger also mentioned this week that he turned down a cameo role in next February’s reboot of The Predator due to dissatisfaction with the screenplay. Then we learned that Universal Pictures has reportedly pulled the plug on plans for King Conan, which would have been the third Schwarzenegger/Conan movie (decades later). All that being said, Arnold Schwarzengger appears to think that another movie in his Terminator franchise might still happen. Are some franchises just indestructible, regardless of recent box office?
It’s actually sort of baffling and seemingly improbable, but dozens of movies in, we still have not had a major video game adaptation with a Fresh Tomatometer score. Recent films like Assassin’s Creed (17 percent) and Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (33 percent) did nothing to reverse the trend. And yet, optimistic plans continue to be revealed each year for would-be franchises based on popular video games. This week, we can add to that list the plans at Activision for a new “cinematic universe” based on their first-person shooter franchise, Call of Duty. By this point, there are now dozens of Call of Duty games, but they are often united more by their title and gameplay than their stories. Anyway, two Call of Duty movie concepts that were mentioned this week are Black Ops (“the story behind the story”), and Modern Warfare (“what it’s like to fight a war with the eyes of the world on you”). And of course, they could always adapt the original Call of Duty games about WWII.
Although Michael Bay’s first Transformers movie in 2007 (ten years ago this year!) did come within three points of being Fresh, the three movies since have all been even more Rotten. We obviously don’t know yet what critics will think of this summer’s Transformers: The Last Knight and its post-apocalyptic setting, but it’s easy to guess. Having said that, Transformers is one of Paramount’s most reliable box office properties, and with the move towards Transformers being an annual interest, the giant robot franchise isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Talking to MTV, producer Michael Bay (who is stepping down as franchise director after the fifth movie) mentioned that last year’s “writers room” project has led to Paramount now having 14 potential Transformers movies for the future. For those keeping count, 14 movies on top of the five we have right now would be a total of nineteen Transformers movies. As for what they might be, there appear to be three options: the “main Transformers” movies (like The Last Knight), the spinoffs (like next year’s Bumblebee), and crossovers (like the rumored movie connecting to a new G.I. Joe reboot). So, out of nearly 20 movies, will any of them ever receive Fresh Tomatometer scores?