This week’s Ketchup brings you more headlines from the world of film development news, covering such titles as Animal Farm, Fast X, and The Wonder Twins.
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Video game adaptations are suddenly all the rage in film development following the relative successes of Pokémon Detective Pikachu (Fresh at 68%), Sonic the Hedgehog (Fresh at 63%), and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Fresh at 68%), not to mention Free Guy (Certified Fresh at 80%), which technically isn’t an adaptation of any actual game. This boon now seems to be affecting projects that have been struggling through development for years, like Warner Bros.’ Minecraft movie. The studio had originally scheduled it for March 4, 2022, which obviously didn’t happen, and now they’re powering it up again, this time with an A-list movie star in the lead. That star is Aquaman’s Jason Momoa, who is also currently filming the sequel Fast X as the villain. Minecraft is, of course, the very successful video game franchise that began in 2011, popularized the “building game” genre, attracted over 100 million players, and led to the game developer Mojang being acquired by Microsoft for $2.5 billion. It’s still unclear how the chunky, blocky low-pixel design of Minecraft will be adapted to live-action (will Jason Momoa look like Jason Momoa or a bunch of huge blocks?), or what exactly the premise will be (though the IMDb description says it’s about a dragon and a young female hero). What we do know is that Minecraft will be a comedy feature film directed by Jared Hess (Napoleon Dyanmite, Nacho Libre). The next major video game movie is likely to be the (not yet titled) animated Mario Bros (12/21/2022) movie starring Chris Pratt, Charlie Day, Jack Black, and Anya Taylor-Joy as the voices, respectively, of Mario, Luigi, Bowser, and Princess Peach.
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For the most part, the recent video game movies that have been the most successful have been “kid friendly” titles like the aforementioned Pokémon Detective Pikachu and Sonic the Hedgehog, but Hollywood is clearly also looking at video games as a possible source for more adult storytelling. In this case, the game (and sequels) that is being adapted is still, however, from the same early 1990s generation that spawned Sonic the Hedgehog, even if the genre is otherwise very different. John Wick co-creator Derek Kolstad, who also wrote the recent Bob Odenkirk action movie Nobody (Certified Fresh at 84%), has written a spec screenplay for SEGA based on their 1991 Sega Genesis fighting game Streets of Rage. SEGA released three Streets of Rage games in the 1990s and then rebooted the franchise in 2020 with Streets of Rage 4 for modern consoles. The original Sega Genesis game was a side-scrolling fighting game that followed two police officers who battled a crime syndicate. Streets of Rage is the second video game adaptation to be directly linked to one of the John Wick creators, as Chad Stahelski is also attached to direct a Ghost of Tsushima adaptation.
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Dwayne Johnson will soon star in the DC Comics superhero movie Black Adam (10/21/2022), but broadly speaking, he has more of a connection to video game movies, having starred in Doom (Rotten at 18%), Rampage (Rotten at 51%), and the two recent Jumanji sequels, which were based on a fictional video game as well. It’s unclear if he will also star in this week’s new project, but he is at least on board to produce a feature film adaptation of the popular video game It Takes Two for Amazon. As the title suggests, It Takes Two is a relatively unusual video game as it requires two players to work together at the same time, and does not have a solo player option. Like the video game, the film version of It Takes Two will tell the story of a divorcing couple who find themselves transported into the dolls created by their daughter to represent them, forcing them to go on a crazy adventure together. The It Takes Two feature film is expected to debut on Amazon’s Prime Video service.
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Professional basketball players have been endorsing shoe brands since at least the 1950s, but there is a strong argument to be made that such partnerships were redefined in 1984 when Nike partnered with star player Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls to produce a signature shoe line called Air Jordan. If you’re the sort of person who prefers to learn their pop culture history in the form of feature-length dramas, and also have never heard of Nike, Michael Jordan, or Air Jordan, then you may soon be in luck. Long-time filmmaking partners Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are partnering up once again for a drama about the corporate leadership of Nike in the 1980s as they made that groundbreaking deal with Michael Jordan. Affleck will direct the untitled drama (the original screenplay was indeed called Air Jordan) and co-star as Nike co-founder Phil Knight alongside Matt Damon, who will star as “maverick sneaker salesman” and Knight’s Nike co-founder Sonny Vaccaro. In the Air Jordan screenplay by newcomer Alex Convery, Michael Jordan himself is something of an unseen Harvey-style character who never actually appears on screen, to lend him even more of a mythical “Golden Goose of corporate partnerships’ vibe. Despite their many projects together (including winning Academy Awards for writing Good Will Hunting), this project will actually mark the first time that Ben Affleck will direct Matt Damon as an actor.
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The story of actor-turned-director Andy Serkis and his animated feature film adaptation of George Orwell’s Animal Farm is an unusual one. Let’s start by pointing out that renowned motion capture artist Andy Serkis (Gollum, King Kong, Caesar the ape, etc) has directed three feature films of his own: Breathe (Fresh at 68%), Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (Rotten at 52%), and last year’s Venom: Let There Be Carnage (Rotten at 59%). Next, let’s acknowledge this week’s news that Serkis has signed to direct an animated feature of George Orwell’s Animal Farm based on a screenplay adaptation by Nick Stoller (Storks, Captain Underpants). And now, for the stinger: Andy Serkis actually first made the news with Animal Farm nearly 10 years ago in 2012, when Animal Farm would have been his directorial debut. That was before a series of delays and pauses while Andy Serkis instead focused on his many acting projects and directing those other three films first. The 1945 Orwell novel is a political allegory using farm animals to tell the story of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the rise of the Soviet Union. We don’t know the voice cast just yet, but production of Animal Farm is reportedly already underway in England.
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The upcoming feature film adaptation The Color Purple (12/20/2023) of the 2005 hit Broadway musical play based upon both the 1985 Steven Spielberg film (Fresh at 81%) and the original Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker already had quite a stacked cast even before this week’s latest news. The ensemble includes Fantasia (in her feature film debut) as Celie, Halle Bailey (star of Disney’s upcoming live action The Little Mermaid), Ciara, Aunjanue Ellis, Louis Gossett Jr, David Alan Grier, Corey Hawkins, Taraji P. Henson, and H.E.R., to name just a few. It’s unclear when the deal for this week’s news first started, but one recent event that may have played a role was that Jon Batiste was the big winner at this year’s Grammy Awards on April 3rd, taking home five Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year for We Are. Batiste, who some may know as the leader of the house band on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, is now set to make his acting debut in The Color Purple as the piano-playing Grady, husband of Shug Avery (Taraji P. Henson’s character). The Color Purple is currently filming under the direction of Blitz Bazawule (aka Blitz the Ambassador), who also directed the Beyonce event film (and tie-in to The Lion King) Black is King (Certified Fresh at 94%).
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There is definitely an argument to be made that “movie news articles” are often de facto marketing for the major studios and the expensive franchise movies that they very much have an interest in developing word of mouth for, early and often. That angle may be especially apropos when it the news is basically just what the title of a given franchise movie will be, but, well, here we are, and this week, two such titles made the news. “Fast Ten” your seatbelts, because the first title revealed this week was Fast X. The announcement came from Vin Diesel’s Instagram, along with the logo and the confirmation that filming has begun. As recently hinted at by Jason Momoa, Charlize Theron is also now confirmed for Fast X, as is franchise regular Sung Kang. Franchise newcomers Jason Momoa, Brie Larson, and Daniela Melchior, who will join the returning core cast of Diesel (obviously), Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, and Nathalie Emmanuel. Jordana Brewster will also be returning for Fast X, but her inclusion was newsworthy this week as Diesel revealed that her character was originally not in the screenplay. The other big movie to get a title this week is Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, the long-in-development fantasy franchise reboot starring Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Bridgerton’s Regé-Jean Page, Justice Smith, and Hugh Grant. We still don’t know what the full premise of the reboot will be, but “Thief” is one of the four original D&D player classes (along with, under various names, Cleric, Fighter, and Mage), so Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves suggests that there may be a focus on, well, thievery. Paramount Pictures has scheduled the film for release on March 3, 2023, one week before Disney’s Haunted Mansion on 3/10/2023 and two weeks before Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom on 3/17/2023.
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There has been some talk for a while now about Denzel Washington possibly returning for a third movie following the relative success in 2014 and 2018 of The Equalizer (Fresh at 60%) and The Equalizer 2 (Rotten at 52%), but The Equalizer 3 hadn’t officially been confirmed by Sony Pictures. We now know Washington is indeed officially returning as his ex-spy character in The Equalizer 3, which has been scheduled by Sony Pictures for the big screen for September 1, 2023, and by big screen, they also mean on IMAX, a franchise first. The first two movies were directed by Antoine Fuqua, who has been in the news recently as the director of Will Smith’s runaway slave thriller Emancipation. It’s not yet known if Antoine Fuqua will be directing the third film, which is expected to start filming sometime this fall.
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Over the 80+ years that comic books have been a popular form of entertainment, some characters have undergone dramatic changes, and others have benefited from multiple different iterations. Think Nick Fury, for example, who was reimagined by Marvel in 2001 to look like Samuel L. Jackson, which then led to Jackson himself being cast in the role when the MCU officially kicked off with 2008’s Iron Man. Over at DC, Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman have all undergone periodic face lifts and redesigns over time. And there are the Wonder Twins. Originally created for an animated TV series, the shapeshifting alien twins Zan and Jayna have largely remained frozen in time as supporting characters in the various Super Friends Saturday morning cartoons of the 1970s and early 1980s. That’s all about to change with an upcoming live-action HBO Max feature film, and we’ve just learned who will take the lead. In the original cartoons, the Wonder Twins sort of looked like Vulcans and/or Romulans from Star Trek, but for the HBO Max movie, they will be portrayed by TV stars KJ Apa (Archie from The CW’s Riverdale) and Isabel May (Young Sheldon, 1883). Production is set to start this summer on The Wonder Twins under the direction of Black Adam co-writer Adam Sztykiel in his directorial debut. It’s not yet known if Zan and Jayna’s blue-furred chimp sidekick Gleek will also appear in the film.