This Week’s Ketchup brings you more headlines from the world of film development news, covering such titles as Black Adam, Fletch, and Wishbone.
It was just in 2017 that Netflix shocked many pundits with the news that they were investing over $100 million (which eventually became something more like $160 to $200 million) on Martin Scorsese’s ambitious mob hitman biopic The Irishman (Certified Fresh at 96%). Perhaps even more surprisingly, The Irishman did not receive a wide release in theaters, but was still seen as a success. On the heels of that success, Netflix announced plans this week to break their own record with a spy action-thriller called The Gray Man, which will have a production budget north of $200 million. Chris Evans (Marvel’s Captain America) and Ryan Gosling will star in The Gray Man, which will be adapted from the novel of the same name by screenwriter Joe Russo and directed by Russo and his brother Anthony Russo, who are best known for the Marvel movies Captain America: Civil War (Certified Fresh at 91%), Avengers: Infinity War (Certified Fresh aty 85%), and Avengers: Endgame (Certified Fresh at 94%). As the source novel is the first in a successful series, Netflix reportedly hopes to start a new action franchise comparable to James Bond. The Gray Man will tell the story of a deadly cat-and-mouse came as one assassin (Gosling) called “The Gray Man” is hunted down across the world by another agent (Chris Evans). It’s worth noting, since the Russo Brothers are so tied to “comic book movies,” that Netflix’s The Gray Man has no connection to the DC Comics character of the same name. It’s also worth noting that Joe Russo is the writer of the Netflix original film Extraction, which starred the MCU’s Chris Hemsworth and became the streaming service’s most-watched movie of all time when it premiered in late April.
DC Comics’ Justice Society of America is a super team that some fans are just now discovering because of Stargirl on The CW, but it actually has a history dating back to the early 1940s as the very first comic book superhero team ever. Some JSA members are tricky to comprehend because of those 80 years of continuity, but one of them is the original Atom (who was “short” but not to be confused with the Atoms who can shrink), who was then followed by his super-strong godson (now called Atom Smasher). There have been rumors before this week that Dwayne Johnson’s upcoming Black Adam (12/22/2021) will, in addition to being a Shazam! spinoff, also feature some members of the Justice Society of America, and this week, Atom Smasher became the first to be confirmed. The actor joining Black Adam will be Noah Centineo, who is probably currently best known for his roles in a few different Netflix projects, including To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Sierra Burgess is a Loser, and The Perfect Date. When production of Black Adam starts off in Georgia in early 2021, the film will be directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, who also directed Johnson in Disney’s upcoming theme park attraction adaptation Jungle Cruise (6/20/2021).
Hollywood obviously has a decades-long obsession with remaking films of yesteryear (they’ve actually been remaking movies since 1918), but the decade that has seemingly inspired the most remakes is the 1980s. Although he was quickly followed by stars like John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, and Eddie Murphy, the first Saturday Night Live star to leave the show for a movie career was Chevy Chase, and in 1985, he starred in the journalist comedy Fletch (Fresh at 77%), which was then followed in 1989 by the sequel Fletch Lives (Rotten at 37%). Director Kevin Smith has long wanted to reboot the franchise with a project called Fletch Won, starring Jason Lee (TV’s My Name is Earl), but that obviously never happened. Instead, the actor who is now attached to star in the Fletch reboot, based on the eleven original novels by Gregory McDonald, is Jon Hamm. The new Fletch will be directed by Greg Mottola (Superbad, Adventureland), who previously worked with Hamm on the made-for-HBO movie Clear History (Fresh at 61%). You can read more about Jon Hamm’s other upcoming projects in this piece.
Although some genres are still struggling in the movies compared to where they used to be (romantic comedies, westerns, etc), Hollywood appears to be content with the results they get from “dog movies.” (Harrison Ford’s Call of the Wild has been described as a box office bomb, but it also had to deal with the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.) One of the upcoming “dog movies” is the adaptation of the animated PBS series Clifford the Big Red Dog (11/13/2020 ), and this week, another canine PBS show is getting its own movie. Wishbone was a live-action show that ran on PBS from 1995 to 1997 in which Wishbone the dog taking on the personas of various literary characters each week, and now Green Book (Certified Fresh at 78%) director Peter Farrelly is attached to produce the Wishbone movie. As long as we’re on the subject, another dog movie in active development that was announced earlier this year is Arthur the King, starring Mark Wahlberg.
You may recall that we almost got a Marvel Comics adaptation called Silver & Black (about Silver Sable and Black Cat), which was once scheduled for February 8, 2019. That film was to have been directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love and Basketball, The Secret Life of Bees), who instead moved to Netflix where she directed their recent action movie The Old Guard (Certified Fresh at 81%). It appears that the good will from The Old Guard has resulted in a pretty quick benefit for Prince-Bythewood, because she has already set up an ambitious period drama at TriStar Pictures called The Woman King. Viola Davis will star in The Woman King as Nanisca, a general of an all-female military unit in the Kingdom of Dahomey, an African nation that once existed in the area that is now Benin. The other lead role in The Woman King will be Nanisca’s daughter, Nawi, who reportedly was almost played by Lupita Nyong’o. In related news, Charlize Theron is already talking about possible sequel plans for The Old Guard.
Some of this year’s animated features ended up releasing (or will be released) on Video on Demand due to widespread theater closures (Trolls World Tour, Scoob!, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run in 2021), but Hollywood appears to be otherwise committing to keeping other future animated movies in theaters (when the world goes back to having any movies released). One of those companies is Paramount Animation, who is continuing development on a project called The Tiger’s Apprentice, which will be inspired by elements of the Chinse Zodiac. We can now report that the lead character, a talking tiger, will be voiced by Henry Golding, who first came to attention as the male lead in the 2018 romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians. Golding’s next big movie role will be as Snake Eyes (10/23/2020), in a spinoff movie for the popular G.I. Joe character.
For the most part, “movie rumors” don’t get covered by major souces like Variety and Deadline, which is basically where we draw the line between “rumors” and confirmed news stories to begin with. This week, however, both of those sources ran with a story that is still firmly being described as a rumor. Reportedly, Dirty Dancing (Fresh at 69%) and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off star Jennifer Grey is partnering with Lionsgate to produce “an unique dance movie” which she will star in and produce. The mystery project, which is also set in the 1990s, is rumored to possibly be a sequel to Dirty Dancing. If true, Grey would presumably be playing the 40-something older version of “Baby” from Dirty Dancing, but it’s anyone’s guess what that character might be doing 30 years later after that one memorable summer in the Catskills in 1963. We should also point out that Dirty Dancing already had a “re-imagining” in 2004 with Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights (Rotten at 23%), and a TV movie remake in 2017 (Rotten at 19%).
Amidst all of the speculation about how most Hollywood productions will get going again, we’ve also been hearing about producer Michael Bay’s project called Songbird, which is inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic we’re all currently living in. Set two years in the future, Songbird will be told “through the eyes of the characters,” and we now know that the two leads will be KJ Apa (Archie on TV’s Riverdale) and Sofia Carson, one of the stars of Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists. Filming of Songbird reportedly started on location in Los Angeles on Wednesday. Apa will play an essential worker who is able to deliver to people, including his girlfriend (Carson), due to his having a rare immunity to the disease. Demi Moore will also have a supporting role.
Director Tate Taylor is probably best known for his frequent collaborations with actress Octavia Spencer (like The Help and the thriller Ma), but he’s also done movies like The Girl on the Train with other lead actresses. For his next movie, Taylor has recruited veteran character actor Jean Smart, who’s coming off her recent supporting role in HBO’s Watchmen mini-series (playing the same Silk Spectre character depicted in the 2009 movie by Malin Akerman). Jean Smart will be starring in the movie, called Miss Macy, as an “eccentric” woman who becomes a mentor to a young girl. The screenplay was adapted by screnwriter Beth Henley (Crimes of the Heart, Nobody’s Fool). Miss Macy will be produced by Amblin Partners, the production company that spun out from Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks Pictures, and which has recently produced 1917, Dark Waters, First Man, and Ready Player One.
Univeral Pictures’ previous plan for a “Dark Universe” built around reboots of their Universal Classic Monsters famously fell apart in 2017 following the disappointing box office for Tom Cruise’s The Mummy, but the studio did not give up on the idea of reboots. Their new strategy paid off this year, just before the pandemic fully hit, with The Invisible Man (Certified Fresh at 91%), which was both a box office and critical hit. Other “classic monsters” projects Universal now has in the works include a remake of The Wolfman (starring Ryan Gosling) and a project called Dark Army from director Paul Feig (we don’t yet know what that one’s about). We can also add to the list a family-friendly movie called Little Monsters from the director of Toy Story 4, which will reportedly feature various characters from Universal’s monster roster. That concept has sort of already been done a few times, including movies like The Monster Squad and Adam Sandler’s animated Hotel Transylvania franchise, but the difference here is Universal Pictures’ “official” stamp of approval (Hotel Transylvania, for example, is a Sony Pictures franchise).