This week, the Weekly Ketchup is departing from our regular Friday schedule because of San Diego Comic-Con, and all of the extra big news that it will bring throughout the weekend. So today, you get a “pre-SDCC” Weekly Ketchup! This edition brings you nine 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 Ghostbusters 2, Star Trek 4, a remake of Cooley High, and Edgar Wright’s Shadows.
When film historians tell the story of the first 15 or so years of the 21st century, at least one chapter is likely to be dedicated to the “YA” fad. The movie business is by nature cyclical, but this particular wave started and seemingly has ended all within the course of eight years. It was only in 2008 that the first Twilight movie was released (the last in 2012), and The Hunger Games spanned four movies, one a year from 2012 to 2015. Those two mega-successful franchises (both from Lionsgate or subsidiary Summit Entertainment) are the rare exceptions to a rule that was much more demonstrated by box office disappointments (The Host, Beautiful Creatures, I Am Number Four, The Giver, The Mortal Instruments, etc). Until this March, the Divergent series seemed like it would be another four-films-adapting-three-novels genre success for Lionsgate. The franchise starring Shailene Woodley kept dropping, both in box office and critical reception. Even so, it was presumed by most that Lionsgate would continue their sad march towards a Divergent series wrap up. The fourth movie, Divergent Series: Ascendant, even had a release date of June 9, 2017, up against both World War Z II and Universal’s next reboot of The Mummy, starring Tom Cruise. Well, according to Variety this week, Lionsgate is changing course at the last moment, negotiating for The Divergent Series: Ascendant to be made into a “TV movie” that would then lead to a Divergent spinoff TV series (probably using different characters). It sounds like there are still many unknown variables, such as which of the “movie stars” will also reprise their roles in the “TV movie.” Shailene Woodley, who got her start in TV (Secret Life of the American Teenager) might be likely to return, but Ansel Elgort and Theo James might not. As for what channel Divergent Series: Ascendant will be produced for, we still don’t know yet. However, Starz seems the most obvious candidate since that network was just acquired by Lionsgate three weeks ago for $4.4 billion (ie, Lionsgate might have known they were doing this at the time). So, what do the fans think? Is Divergent going direct-to-TV the final death knell in the “YA novel adaptation” fad?
When it comes to sequels, the math varies depending upon a few different factors, but the most obvious one is budget. The $46 million opening weekend of the Ghostbusters reboot, for example, would have been an obvious “franchise starter” for a movie on a $40 million budget. However, that movie was a special effects extravaganza, with a budget in the $144 million range. One of Sony Pictures’ executives confirmed soon after the box office numbers came out that, yes, they are still committed to making more Ghostbusters movies in the near future. Sony President of Worldwide Distribution Rory Brue specifically said, “I expect Ghostbusters to become an important brand and franchise… While nothing has been officially announced yet, there’s no doubt in my mind it will happen.” As for what the next Ghostbusters sequel might involve, the reboot has a scene after the credits that pretty much tells us. And we can almost certainly expect that the four female stars (Leslie Jones, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Kristen Wiig) are probably already signed (or in negotiations) for the sequel as well (and probably director Paul Feig, too). One actor who might be tougher to confirm is Chris Hemsworth — along with his Marvel committments, it’s sounding like he will continue to be quite busy because…
Earlier this year, it was confirmed that the “official” designation for the new timeline that started in the 2009 Star Trek reboot is “Kelvin.” That name comes from the ship that was destroyed by the time travelling baddies in the beginning of that film (if that’s a spoiler to you after seven years, well, you probably shouldn’t be reading any of this). One of the crewmen on the Kelvin was George Kirk, played by Chris Hemsworth, who of course was the father of the future Captain James Tiberius Kirk (Chris Pine). Kirk’s father dying so young was one of the more character-oriented changes in the Kelvin timeline (along with, you know, the entire planet Vulcan being destroyed), and this week’s news indicates we haven’t seen the last of him. Paramount Pictures, Skydance, and Bad Robot have announced the fourth/fourteenth Star Trek movie, and one of the stars will be… Chris Hemsworth as Kirk’s dad. The announcement doesn’t explain exactly how that happens, but calls him “a man he [James T. Kirk] never had a chance to meet, but whose legacy has haunted him since the day he was born.” Time travel probably is the most obvious explanation for how this will all go down (whole books could be written about time travel in Star Trek), but there are other possibilities. One other detail was revealed about Star Trek 4 this week, namely a confirmation from J.J. Abrams that Pavel Chekov, played by the recently late Anton Yelchin, will not be recast, saying, “There’s no recasting. I can’t possibly imagine that, and I think Anton deserves better.” There’s no release date for the 4th/14th Star Trek movie yet, but given the 3-4 years between the films recently, we can guess at a target window of either 2019 or 2020.
This week, we’re giving you two editions of The Weekly Ketchup, because of the anticipated deluge of news coming out of San Diego Comic-Con. If there’s going to be one story that sort of exemplifies the difference between this first column, and the second, it’s this one (in a few ways). In 2014, after taking 11 years off, author Donna Tartt came back with her third novel, The Goldfinch, and was rewarded with the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. The Goldfinch is a sprawling, decades-long American epic with elements including terrorism, art theft, and alcholism (basically, it’s a lot like Great Expectations) — in other words, it’s a little different from the comic book movies we’ll hear about this week. Warner Bros has had the film rights to The Goldfinch since 2014, and this week, we learned that the studio is now in talks with director John Crowley for him to make The Goldfinch his next film after last year’s award-winning drama Brooklyn. If he signs on, Crowley will be working from a screenplay adaptation by screenwriter Peter Straughan (cowriter of Frank, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy).
The traditional “trades” are still out there covering the film business, but every once in a while they do something that reminds us they’re still not fully caught up with the era of “social media.” For example, Variety and The Hollywood Reporter still sometimes “bury the lede,” nestling the most interesting tidbits in much longer, seemingly less important articles or profiles. One example happened this week when The Hollywood Reporter ran a story about Jeffrey Katzenberg’s future, following the acquisition of DreamWorks Animation by Universal earlier this year. Sort of halfway through, you’ll find one sentence about the year 2019, during which DreamWorks Animation will release Shrek 5 and the movie now known as Shadows. We’ve covered both of those movies in the Weekly Ketchup in recent weeks and months, but the news that they are now “only” three years away is still big. There’s not much to say about Shrek 5 (except maybe that it now sounds more like a sequel, and less like a reboot, as once suggested). The movie called Shadows definitely does require a bit more explanation, though. The film, first announced last November, will mark the animation debut of fan-favorite director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz). DreamWorks has long been wanting to do an animated movie involving the concept of “shadows,” dating back to their ambitious Me and My Shadow from several years ago, and Edgar Wright’s Shadows is an extension of that.
Kirsten Dunst is now preparing to make her feature film debut as director after directing two short films in 2007 and 2010, and she’s sort of swinging for the fences with an independent remake of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, previously adapted as a film in 1979 starring Marilyn Hassett and Jameson Parker. Originally published under a pseudonym, The Bell Jar was the only novel written by poet Sylvia Plath– she committed suicide a few months after The Bell Jar was published in 1963 — and is now interpreted as a roman à clef (a work of fiction based mostly on real events), as both the main character and Plath herself struggled with similar psychological issues. Dakota Fanning (who will turn 23 next year) will star as the novel’s central character, Esther Greenwood, a young woman whose potential future as a promising writer is rocked by her own struggles with mental health. Independent production of Dunst’s adaptation is expected to start in early 2017, possibly aiming for a debut at the Sundance Film Festival in January, 2018.
Few decades were as rife with nostalgia as the 1970s (mostly for the 1950s and early 1960s). Full discussion of the “why” would require much, much more discussion, but it was probably partially due to how quickly American life had changed in 10 or so years from, say, 1962 to 1972. A few examples of this nostalgia in the 1970s were Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, and at the movies, American Graffiti and Animal House. Another such film (which is arguably not as popular today as its competition) was 1975’s Cooley High, about a group of African American best friends living in Chicago in 1964. Produced for under a million dollars, Cooley High was both a box office success ($13 million) and a hit with critics (82 percent on the Tomatometer). MGM is the studio most known for remakes than any other these days (such as Poltergeist, Hercules, RoboCop, and the upcoming Ben-Hur, The Magnificent Seven, and Going in Style), and now, it’s also planning a remake of Cooley High, working with rapper-turned-actor Common, who will produce the remake as well as costar (probably as one of the teachers). It’s also possible Common might contribute at least one song to the score. As for why Cooley High, and why now? Reportedly, the producers felt that a new Cooley High would be “a timely project in light of the racial unrest that has followed several high-profile shootings throughout the country.”
Although it was great that The LEGO Movie was over-the-top fun and creative in its adaptation of the titular toys, the bad news was that its success unsurprisingly inspired lots of other studios and producers to try to mine gold from traditionally non-narrative properties. One example is the “Emoji,” i.e. the little smiley faces and icons you can attach to texts and Facebook posts. To that end, Sony Pictures put an animated movie called EmojiMovie: Express Yourself into fast production, aiming for a release date next summer on August 11, 2017. And now, we know who will be providing that movie the voice for its lead character. T.J. Miller, who is probably best known for either costarring in Deadpool, or in HBO’s Silicon Valley, will provide the voice of a “meh” Emoji named Gene who finds himself conveying other emotions (because of a software glitch). EmojiMovie: Express Yourself will be directed by Anthony Leondis, whose previous films included Igor (Rotten at 36 percent) and the direct-to-video sequel Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch (also Rotten at 40 percent).
Obviously, beloved celebrities and filmmakers die every year, but 2016 seems particularly rough so far. We lost another of Hollywood’s most popular filmmakers this week, with the news that Garry Marshall died at the age of 81 from complications from pneumonia following a recent stroke. Marshall was a triple threat, working as a film director/writer, one of the most successful TV producer/showrunners ever, and also as a frequent comedian and actor. This included the rare feat of becoming something of a center of a “Marshallverse,” an ever expanding circle of stars and creators who all had deep ties early in their careers to Marshall. We can arguably thank him for the careers of director Ron Howard (from Happy Days), Robin Williams (from Mork & Mindy), Penny Marshall (his sister, but also his Laverne & Shirley star), and even Julia Roberts (who had her first major hit movie with Pretty Woman). Critically, Marshall’s last 25 years have been a little rough, but many of his Rotten movies were, admittedly, “barely” Rotten, right in the 50-59 percent range. The “Garry Marshall problem” might simply have been that he made the sort of broad appeal, warm-and-fuzzy comedies that audiences tended to embrace more than critics did. In recent years, Marshall had turned most of his energy towards his own mini-genre of holiday comedies: Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve, and Mother’s Day. Sure, none of them earned above 18 percent on the Tomatometer, but we’re still going to miss reporting on what holiday he might have adapted next. R.I.P. Garry Marshall.