This week’s Ketchup brings you more headlines from the world of film development news, covering new titles such as The Aristocats, A Christmas Story 2, and The Meg 2.
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After 91 years of only awarding Best Picture to English-language films, the 92nd Annual Academy Awards in early 2020 (just before COVID-19 changed everything) finally broke the international drought with Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite (Certified Fresh at 98%), which won four Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best International Feature Film). In the two years since, there hasn’t been much news about what Bong Joon-ho would do next (again, COVID-19 may have played a part there), but it appears he is preparing to make his next film for Warner Bros. Bong is now in talks with the studio to write, direct, and produce an untitled film based on the upcoming Edward Ashton novel Mickey7. Robert Pattinson, who will soon appear in Warner Bros.’ upcoming The Batman, is also in negotiations to star in the project. The novel is described as a science fiction thriller about “Mickey7… an Expendable: a disposable employee on a human expedition sent to colonize the ice world Niflheim. Whenever there’s a mission that’s too dangerous — even suicidal — the crew turns to Mickey.” The premise brings to mind the replicants from Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, who were created to do the outer space grunt work humans didn’t want to do. Bong Joon-ho’s producing partners on the Mickey7 adaptation will include Brad Pitt’s Plan B, which also co-produced Bong’s Okja (Certified Fresh at 86%) for Netflix. Warner Bros. is also actively developing an adaptation of Parasite for HBO Max as a limited series.
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When A Christmas Story (Certified Fresh at 90%) was first released in the midst of the holiday season of 1983, it was moderately successful at the box office (opening at #3 behind Amityville 3-D and The Big Chill), eventually earning just $16.7 million in its initial release. Much like another holiday classic set in the 1940s, It’s a Wondeful Life (Certified Fresh at 94%), A Christmas Story eventually became a bona fide pop culture phenomenon through annual cable television airings and marathons. Bob Clark, the writer, director, and producer of A Christmas Story, died in 2007, but now, the original “Ralphie” is taking over where he left off. Peter Billingsley, the former child star of A Christmas Story, is closing a deal with Legendary and Warner Bros. to produce and star in a sequel to the film, which will be made for HBO Max. The story will pick up Ralphie’s story 30 years later in the 1970s, depicting how “the now-father reconnects with childhood friends, reconciles the passing of his Old Man, and callbacks to the initial film.” No other cast members have been announced yet, but Collider reports that the role of Ralphie’s mother may be recast. A Christmas Story was filmed on location in Cleveland, Ohio, but the sequel will be filmed in Hungary when production begins in February, 2022. The sequel (title still pending) will be directed by Clay Kaytis (The Angry Birds Movie), whose other holiday-themed projects include Netflix’s The Christmas Chronicles (Fresh at 98%) and Apple TV+’s Snoopy Presents: For Auld Lang Syne.
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In 2010, Funny or Die poked fun at the musical biopic genre with a spoof trailer for a film called Weird, with Aaron Paul starring as parody pop star “Weird” Al Yankovic. Those involved with that trailer could not have predicted the explosion in popularity of the genre in the ensuing years. As it turns out, Weird Al Yankovic will indeed get his own biopic called Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, which will also be produced by Funny or Die, directly for the streaming app Roku. Alfred “Weird Al” Yankovic himself will be portrayed by England’s former boy wizard, Daniel Radcliffe. It’s not yet known if any of the stars in the original trailer (like Gary Cole as his dad, Mary Steenburgen as his mom, Olivia Wilde as Madonna, or Patton Oswalt as Dr. Demento) will reprise their roles in the feature film. Weird Al Yankovic co-wrote Weird: The Al Yankovic Story with Eric Appel, who created the original spoof trailer and who will also direct the feature. Filming is scheduled to start in Los Angeles in early February, 2022.
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The streaming business has definitely become much more competitive in the last few years with the expansion of several new services, but the granddaddy of them all, Netflix, continues to steadily make new deals for future content. This week, Netflix announced its plans to partner with the stop-motion production company Aardman, which will include the sequel Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget in 2023 and a new Wallace & Gromit feature film in 2024. The original Chicken Run (Certified Fresh at 97%) came out some 22 years ago in 2000, featuring a largely female and British cast along with a rooster named Rocky, who was voiced by Mel Gibson (and who will be voiced by Zachary Levi in the sequel). Another voice recasting will be Rocky’s romantic interest Ginger, as Thandie Newton will be taking over from Julia Sawalha (and Game of Thrones star Bella Ramsey will be voicing Ginger’s daughter). The new Wallace & Gromit doesn’t yet have a title, but the premise is that “Wallace invents a ‘smart gnome’ that seems to develop a mind of its own. As events spiral out of control, it falls to Gromit to put aside his qualms and battle sinister forces – or Wallace may never be able to invent again.” This Wallace & Gromit feature in 2024 will come nearly 20 years after the most recent film, 2005’s Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (Certified Fresh at 95%).
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Most novels that appear on the New York Times bestseller list are by English-speaking writers, but every once in a while, an international author has a crossover hit. One example of that was in 2013, when Swedish author Fredrik Backman had a surprise international hit with A Man Called Ove, which was on the New York Times list for 77 weeks and sold over 7 million copies worldwide. The comedic novel about a cranky curmudgeon whose life is changed by his new neighbors was then adapted as a Swedish film in 2015, which was nominated for two Academy Awards (Best Foreign Language Film and Best Makeup and Hairstyling) in 2017. Later that year, Tom Hanks attached himself to star in an English-language adaptation of A Man Called Ove, which he was co-producing along with his Playtone partner Gary Goetzman (whose experiences in the 1970s inspired Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza, incidentally ). Development on the remake took several years, but A Man Called Ove is now ready to start filming later this year under the direction of Marc Forster (Finding Neverland, World War Z).
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Unlike many of his former MCU co-stars, Anthony Mackie remains attached to reprise his role as Sam Wilson aka Falcon aka the new Captain America in future Marvel Studios projects like Captain America 4. There is, however, no current release date for Captain America 4 (or any other confirmation of when a project featuring Mackie might start filming), so the actor is currently in a position where he can commit to other projects without having to fit it into the time-consuming world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And so, Anthony Mackie is now attached to make his feature film directorial debut with a historical drama called Spark, about the experiences of civil rights pioneer Claudette Colvin, who in 1955 was arrested at the age of 15 for refusing to give up her bus seat, nine months before Rosa Parks did the same thing (in the same city, Montgomery, Alabama). The role of Claudette Colvin will be played by Saniyya Sidney, who recently starred as Venus Williams in King Richard (Certified Fresh at 90%). Sidney will also soon be seen as Sasha Obama in Showtime’s The First Lady, starring Viola Davis as Michelle Obama.
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Last year’s Encanto (Certified Fresh at 91%) was the 60th official feature film from Walt Disney Animation Studios in a line that dates all the way back to the 1930s. Many of those classics have, in recent years, been adapted into live-action films by the studio, and the latest to get the treatment is 1970’s The Aristocats (Fresh at 64%), which, for those keeping count, was the 20th Disney animated feature. The story of a family of French cats who discover they’re about to inherit a fortune is reportedly being adapted in a style similar to the Disney+ feature film Lady and the Tramp (Fresh at 65%), which may refer to the fact that the “live-action dogs” in that film were, in fact, computer animated. It’s not yet known if The Aristocats is being developed as a theatrical feature or if it will debut directly on Disney+ like Lady and the Tramp. The screenplay by Will Gluck (Peter Rabbit, Annie) and Keith Bunin (Onward) may aim to update the way some of the characters are depicted, as Disney+ drew attention in 2020 for slapping “negative depictions” label on The Aristocats when it debuted on the streaming service.
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Producer Will Packer is currently preparing for his next big project of putting on the next Academy Awards (as the Omicron variant continues to spread), and to promote the event, he appeared today on Good Morning America. The morning show isn’t known for breaking news that hasn’t already been reported elsewhere, but that’s exactly what happened when Packer revealed that a Girls Trip sequel is “underway” with all of the stars of the first film expected to return. Girls Trip (Certified Fresh at 92%) was arguably a surprise box office hit in 2017, and it featured a breakout performance from Tiffany Haddish, who has been quite prolific in the five years since. Haddish’s co-stars included Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, and Jada Pinkett Smith. Will Packer also made the news this week for producing a new heist film called Love and Theft for Universal Pictures.
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The “buddy movie” is a popular subgenre of action comedy that dates back at least as far back as the 1970s, and which has combined many different types of people together (from Silver Streak to Rush Hour to Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot). For a new action comedy called Freelance, the combination of unlikely partners will be John Cena (currently starring on HBO Max in Peacemaker) and Community and GLOW star Alison Brie. Cena will star as an “ex-special forces operator [who’s] desperate to escape his humdrum life” who takes on a job providing security for a journalist (Brie) trying to interview a dictator, until a military coup breaks out during the interview. Freelance will be directed by Pierre Morel (Taken, Peppermint) when filming starts later this month on location in Colombia. John Cena and Alison Brie’s co-stars will also include Alice Eve and Marton Csokas.
(Photo by Warner Bros.)
Movie fans who regularly read columns like the Weekly Ketchup are probably used to the notion that they might not see a movie announced one week until several years later, but some movies take longer than others. One of the recent films that finally emerged after the longest time in development was 2018’s giant shark action thriller The Meg (Rotten at 46%), which actually got its start way back in the 1990s. The Meg apparently did well enough (over $500 million worldwide) to receive a sequel, but fans of the original won’t have to wait nearly 20 years, as The Meg 2 will start filming in the UK next week, with Jason Statham returning to reprise his role from the first film. The Meg 2 has a few key production differences, however, as the first film was produced mostly in New Zealand and was directed by Jon Turteltaub, while sequel will film at Leavesden Studios in England and will be directed by Ben Wheatley (Kill List, High-Rise). The Meg 2 continues a franchise that is an adaptation of a series of eight novels by author Steve Alten and, as one might expect, will see Jason Statham’s character once again facing off with a giant prehistoric megalodon shark. As one does.