Few industries enjoy taking really long extended holiday vacations quite like Hollywood. So when we get to this time of the year, there’s really not much in the realm of “movie development news” to discuss, especially not in a weekly column which normally includes 10 different stories. So, last week, we instead reviewed 12 of the year’s top “Fresh Development” stories, and this week, we’re looking at 12+ of the year’s most Rotten Ideas. Our retrospective begins not with a single story, but a continuing theme that kept making the news (though we’re still not sure why). We’re talking about…
The video game industry is now in its fifth decade (figuring a rough start sometime in the early 1970s), but the marriage between it and Hollywood has yet to take off as a collective enterprise (at least, not in the way comic book movies have). That hasn’t stopped producers from developing potential projects, of course. Some pundits thought 2016 had the potential to be a breakthrough year for the genre, with such high profile game adaptations as Ratchet & Clank, The Angry Birds Movie, Warcraft, and Assassin’s Creed. Unfortunately, those films went on to earn Rotten Tomatometer scores of 18 percent, 43 percent, 28 percent, and 17 percent, respectively. You might say, well, that’s just one year, but the thing is, there has never been a movie based on a video game with a Fresh Tomatometer score. Video games do have a lot of potential as feature film source material, but the simplest games don’t possess a narrative structure. That’s why we called the year’s first major video game development story — about forthcoming adaptations of the classic Atari arcade games Missile Command and Centipede — a Rotten Idea. That wasn’t all we got in 2016, either: we also heard about the plans in China for a trilogy of movies based on Tetris. , which, eight years ago, was the subject of a tongue-in-cheek mock trailer. Speaking of video game movies with only the barest narrative structures, this was also the year that a Fruit Ninja movie entered development as an animated feature (probably “like” The Angry Birds Movie, which announced a sequel as well). But wait, there’s more! First, there’s the movie based on Tom Clancy’s The Division, which will feature Jake Gyllenhaal, which was then followed by the Gears of War movie, based upon the popular XBox/PC third-person shooter franchise. That’s a grand total of eight movies that entered development this year. Will Hollywood ever learn its lesson from all of those Rotten Tomatometer scores for movies based on video games?
One of the highest profile news threads running through most of 2015 was talk of where the mega-successful Transformers film franchise would go next, with reported plans for spinoffs and prequels in the future. One question lingered amid all the speculation: would Michael Bay, who has directed all the live-action Transformers movie to date, return? It turned out the answer was yes, though he would hand the franchise to someone else after the fifth installment. Filming on Transformers: The Last Knight is already done, and it’s scheduled for release on June 23, 2017 (the week after Cars 3 and before Despicable Me 3). We also learned this year that Paramount Pictures is now committed to making Transformers an annual franchise starting in 2017; the 6th and 7th Transformers movies will follow on June 8th, 2018 and June 28, 2019. With a number of franchises (Marvel, Star Wars, X-Men, WB/DC) doing the same, it appears that this will be a model that more studios will follow. The news also broke this year that the 6th movie will be the first solo spinoff movie focusing on Bumblebee, basically doing for Transformers what Rogue One did for Star Wars. The promise/threat of a Transformers movie every year was a Rotten Idea, based on the franchise’s Tomatometer scores.
After earning over $473 million last year globally, the earthquake disaster movie San Andreas is set to get a sequel. New Line Cinema is now moving forward with exactly that plan, and the studio expects Dwayne Johnson to return as his pilot character again. This time around, the focus may be moving to the area called “The Ring of Fire” (is that the possible subtitle right there?), which is a band of volcanos and earthquake hotspots around the Pacific Islands. In addition to Johnson, New Line Cinema also hopes that his costars Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario, and Paul Giamatti will also return. Whatever San Andreas 2 is called or is about, the sequel will also see the return of director Brad Peyton, whose three films to date have all received Rotten Tomatometer scores (50 percent for San Andreas, 42 percent for Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, and 14 percent for Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore).
The biggest release in the month of March, 2016, was Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which ended up being the fourth Rotten movie in a row for director Zack Snyder. Snyder spent much of the month talking about possible future films, almost all of which sound sort of rotten as well. In a Bloomberg Business profile on Snyder, he talked up his interest in making a movie about Revolutionary War General George Washington, specifically the Battle of Trenton, “in the style of 300.” It’s anyone’s guess as to what exactly that would look like, and how much of it would be in slo-mo. The “in the style of 300” theme came up again this year in an interview with Collider, when Snyder stated that he would like to apply that same filmmaking approach to other battles throughout history. Here’s the quote, specifically: “I think I mentioned that we talked about the Revolutionary War version, and we talked about the Alamo, and we’ve talked about there’s a battle in China, a ‘Lost Legion’ kind of concept; any of those kinds of things are on the table.” History isn’t the only target for Snyder’s aspirations, however, as he also talked in March about his ideas for a new adaptation of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, based on Rand’s screenplay for the 1949 movie starring Gary Cooper. All of these movies are likely at least a few years away from getting made (if any of them ever do), since most of Snyder’s time will be devoted to Justice League Part One (11/17/17), the Afghanistan war drama The Last Photograph, and his second Justice League movie after that.
When it comes to sequels, box office success is generally more of a factor than critical success. So, when Paramount Pictures saw a worldwide box office take of $240 million for the relatively inexpensive comedy Daddy’s Home, a sequel was a given. In April, it was announced that Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg both signed on with Paramount Pictures to return for Daddy’s Home 2. The premise hasn’t been revealed yet, but it’s easy to speculate that, as with similar sequels (Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, for example), the setup might be “basically the same, except the opposite.” Unless it’s not. Anyway, Daddy’s Home earned a Rotten score of just 32 percent, and most of the news that came out of April was a lot more Fresh, so Daddy’s Home 2 earns this slot.
If you grew up in the world before social media (and especially before the internet took off in the 1990s), the way you interpreted things as a child might be different from the way (some) modern children do. That, at least, might have been an eye-opening epiphany for those who read the news two years ago about two 12 year old girls who stabbed another girl trying to impress a fictional character called Slender Man, the subject of an extensive internet meme that includes short stories, “true story” testimonials, YouTube videos, and video games. It was probably inevitable that someone, somewhere would adapt the character into a horror film, and now, thanks to Screen Gems and Mythology Entertainment, we’re getting that film. That production company is also currently developing The Overlook Hotel, a prequel to Stephen King’s The Shining.
Some movie projects — frequently sequels or reboots — seem to hover just on the edge of film development for years, or even decades. One example, which this writer remembers following back in the 1990s, is the notion of a Beverly Hills Cop 4, which would presumably resurrect the Eddie Murphy “cop comedy” franchise after the Rotten sequels Beverly Hills Cop II (46 percent) in 1987 and Beverly Hills Cop III (10 percent) in 1994. The last major news about Beverly Hills Cop 4 came last year when a March 25th, 2016 release date was pulled by Paramount Pictures. At that time, there had also been a Beverly Hills Cop TV series that CBS was developing but then dropped in 2013. Desperate for another successful franchise, Paramount continued to push for the development of Beverly Hills Cop 4, and in June, the sequel made the news by announcing that Belgian directors Ardil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah were attached to direct for producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Their first film, Black, won festival awards in 2015, and though it’s currently Fresh at 60 percent, it’s only got five reviews, which is hardly comprehensive, and we can’t help but notice some of the strong language in the Rotten reviews. Ouch. Plus, Eddie Murphy hasn’t had a particularly stellar track record lately either. Can these indie directors turn the Beverly Hills Cop franchise around?
People like familiar franchises that provide sequels with familiar expectations; we get that. But some of them never seem to be able to transcend their niche audiences and be embraced, at least on some level, by the critics that form the very core of what we talk about here. One example is the Saw franchise, which critically peaked at 48 percent with the first movie (which is still Rotten), and failed even to crack 10 percent with its most recent installment, Saw: The Final Chapter. It’s been five years since that film was released, and Lionsgate has been looking for another big franchise ever since The Hunger Games ended. With that in mind, the studio is preparing to produce an 8th Saw movie, which they have scheduled for release next year, on October 27, 2017 (just before Halloween, of course). For this installment, Lionsgate has hired the creative writer/director team of the Spierig Brothers (Peter and Michael). The Spierig Brothers bring a certain level of fan anticipation to the Saw franchise, with their two most recent films (Daybreakers and Predestination) both receiving Fresh Tomatometer scores, so it’s sort of a tricky thing. On one hand, we have directors who have given us two pretty great genre films, but on the other, it’s still the Saw franchise we’re talking about here.
The idea of a reboot of the comic book superhero franchise The Crow has been kicking around for several years, including periods during which the possible new star might have been Jack Huston (Boardwalk Empire), Luke Evans (Dracula Untold), or even possibly Mark Wahlberg or Bradley Cooper. It’s been a while now since the last update, and the production company Relativity recently went through bankruptcy, so it was starting to seem like a reboot of The Crow was unlikely. Not so quick! In Auugst, yet another actor became attached, and this time around, it was an actor who already has a much anticipated superhero movie on the way. Future Aquaman star Jason Momoa was reportedly in talks to wear lots of “goth” makeup and clothes from Hot Topic as the moody rock musician-turned-undead superhero The Crow. Momoa’s next major studio movies in the meantime will be Justice League (11/17/17) and the aforementioned Aquaman movie (10/5/18).
In 2000, Jackie Chan was at the height of his career as a martial arts action movie star and looking for his next big American crossover hit. So, he starred with Owen Wilson in a western adventure comedy called Shanghai Noon, which made just enough money ($56 million domestic) to spawn a sequel in 2003 called Shanghai Knights. And then… it seemed like that was that, as Chan focused more on making his films in China. Thirteen years later, Chinese box office is bigger than its ever been, and producers in China are looking for projects that will allow them to work both domestically and with Hollywood movie stars (such as Matt Damon in The Great Wall). That brings us back to the Shanghai Noon. As of September, Jackie Chan (now 62) and Owen Wilson (now 47) were in talks to reprise their roles in a third film, Shanghai Dawn. The director will be Jared Hess, whose debut film remains his most famous: Napoleon Dynamite. While that Sundance hit received a Fresh Tomatometer score, Hess has not been able to replicate the feat, with Nacho Libre (40 percent), Gentlemen Broncos (19 percent), and Don Verdean (30 percent) all earning Rotten scores. Shanghai Noon was Certified Fresh at 79 percent, and Shanghai Knights was also Fresh at 66 percent, but the expiration date on this trilogy may have been sometime around 2006.
Decades of blockbuster chasing on the part of Hollywood’s studios has steadily decreased the number of star-driven, relatively cheaply produced action comedies that make it to our theaters each year. One such movie that was a confirmed hit was 2014’s Ride Along ($134 million domestic), which was followed earlier this year by Ride Along 2 ($90.8 million domestic). Both movies starred Ice Cube as a police detective and Kevin Hart as his sister’s overly/easily excited boyfriend (who is a police academy cadet in the first movie). While the budget did go up and the box office returns down for the second movie, both turned a tidy profit. As such, Universal Pictures appears to remain committed to making movies with Kevin Hart, because the studio has now begun development on Ride Along 3. To that end, Universal Pictures has hired the screenwriting team of Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi to start working on the script. In addition to the first two Ride Along movies, Hay and Manfredi also worked on R.I.P.D., Aeon Flux, and the Clash of the Titans remake. Neither previous Ride Along movie was able to earn a Tomatometer score above 19 percent, which is why we’re calling Ride Along 3 one of the year’s most Rotten Ideas.
There is a continuing debate about which movies should be remade, and what it means when one chooses to remake a film. On one side, there is the argument that classic films should never be remade (ie, “you can’t do better than that”). On the other hand, some filmmakers think that remakes are a way of honoring the original, like John Carpenter’s The Thing, which is now held in higher regard by many than the original film, 1951’s The Thing From Another World. Unfortunately, most remakes are not better than the originals, like the 2011 pseudo-remake of Carpenter’s The Thing. One of the horror comedies of the 1980s that many fans hold in high esteem is John Landis’ 1981 deconstruction on lycanthropy tropes (“lycantropes,” if you will), An American Werewolf in London, which is Certified Fresh. Though he also directed such favorites as Trading Places, The Blues Brothers, and National Lampoon’s Animal House, An American Werewolf in London treally set the tone for the horror comedy genre that’s blossomed in the decades since. We wanted to heap all that praise before revealing November’s most “Rotten Idea,” which is that John Landis’ son Max Landis has decided to write a remake of An American Werewolf in London for Universal Pictures. The new film will be produced by some of the people behind TV’s The Walking Dead, but no other details are known yet. Max Landis did score a Certified Fresh rating with Chronicle, but all of his other Tomatometer credits are Rotten (such as American Ultra, Victor Frankenstein, Mr. Right, and Me Him Her).
Long before this week (heck, back in April even), people all over the Internet were expressing disbelief at exactly how many beloved celebrities from all forms of entertainment departed our world in 2016. Then, on December 27th, we lost Carrie Fisher, and on the next day, reportedly while preparing Carrie’s funeral plans, her mother Debbie Reynolds died as well. Perhaps because of exactly how bad this year has been, many publications are still waiting until Sunday the 1st to officially publish their “2016 in memoriam” stories (at least for movies). You can browse the list as of Friday the 30th here, but we’ll wrap up this most Rotten of years (in deaths) with a quick summary. Directors we lost this year included Guy Hamilton (Goldfinger and three other Bond movies), Michael Cimino (The Deer Hunter), Abbas Kiarostami (Taste of Cherry), Garry Marshall (Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride), Hector Babenco (Kiss of the Spider Woman), Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential), and Herschell Gordon Lewis (The Wizard of Gore). Male actors we lost included Angus Scrimm (Phantasm), David Bowie (Labyrinth), Alan Rickman (Die Hard, the Harry Potter franchise), Abe Vigoda (The Godfather), George Gaynes (Police Academy), George Kennedy (Cool Hand Luke, The Naked Gun), Richard Davalos (East of Eden), Larry Drake (Darkman), Garry Shandling (The Garry Shandling Show), Prince (Purple Rain), Ron Lester (Varsity Blues), Anton Yelchin (Star Trek), Kenny Baker (Star Wars), David Huddleston (The Big Lebowski), Gene Wilder (Blazing Saddles, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory), Jon Polito (Miller’s Crossing), Robert Vaughn (The Magnificent Seven), Ron Glass (Serenity), and Don Calfa (The Return of the Living Dead). Actresses that died this year include former First Lady Nancy Reagan (The Next Voice You Hear), Patty Duke (The Miracle Worker), Doris Roberts (Everybody Loves Raymond), Alexis Arquette (The Wedding Singer), Zsa Zsa Gabor (1952’s Moulin Rouge), and of course, Carrie Fisher (Star Wars, When Harry Met Sally) and Debbie Reynolds (Singin’ in the Rain, 1996’s Mother, The Unsinkable Molly Brown). Here’s hoping 2017 treats us a little better than 2016 did.